How To Find Out If 'Women's Empowerment' Programs Really Empower Women

A group of researchers are finding creative ways — through experimental games and scenarios — to quantify how much control women have over their lives.
Source: Tara Moore

So many aid programs in low-income countries have set "empowering women" as their goal. They don't just want to boost women's incomes and health and education level, but to give them the ability to make their own decisions over those aspects of their lives.

But how do you actually gauge how much control a woman has over her life?

"I don't think it's been more than five or six years since we've been trying to do that. And it's actually very difficult," says Mayra Buvinic. A former director for gender and development at the World Bank, she has helped pioneer a growing effort to measure women's empowerment.

Buvinic, who is, recently convened a meeting of researchers to discuss the challenges — and trade some creative strategies for getting around them, including experimental games and scenarios.

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