Analyzing the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI):
Methods and Insights from the WEAI Doctoral Dissertation Fellows
Presenters: Jessica Ham, Brooke Krause, and Greg Seymour
Chair: Agnes Quisumbing
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Please join us for presentations from the 2012-2014 recipients of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships. The threefold goal of the fellowship was to strengthen understanding and evidence of the WEAI; expand understanding of WEAI dynamics through complementary qualitative and ethnographic work; and support promising researchers interested in gender and agriculture.
Jessica Ham (University of Georgia), Brooke Krause (University of Minnesota), and Greg Seymour (American University) will present on how they used the WEAI in each of their Ph.D. dissertation research projects in Ghana, Guatemala, and Bangladesh to investigate, respectively, the relationship between women’s empowerment and food security, health information networks, and agricultural productivity.
Agnes Quisumbing, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and chair of the IFPRI Gender Task Force, will introduce the WEAI and the fellows.
About the WEAI: The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), launched by IFPRI, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and USAID’s Feed the Future in February 2012, is the first comprehensive and standardized measure to directly capture women’s empowerment and inclusion levels in the agricultural sector. The WEAI is an innovative tool composed of two sub-indexes: one measures how empowered women are within five domains, and the other measures gender parity in empowerment within the household. Please visit the WEAI Resource Center for more information.
Jessica Ham is a bio-cultural anthropologist and PhD candidate at the University of Georgia who was selected in 2012 to receive a Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture (WEAI) Ph.D. dissertation research fellowship. As a bio-cultural anthropologist, she seeks to understand how our social and economic worlds influence human health and biology. Specifically, her dissertation research looks at how food insecurity influences mental health and how poor mental health may contribute to physiological processes of the stress response system that can impair socio-economic productivity. Jessica holds an MA in the Anthropology of Development from the University of Sussex (2007). Prior to pursuing a doctorate degree, she worked for three years in the non-profit world in advocacy for equitable health care access.
Presentation: Worried Sick: Investigating Linkages Among Food Insecurity, Mental Health and Productivity in the Ghanaian Savanna
Abstract: My dissertation research investigates the effectiveness of coping with food insecurity in a subsistence society in northern Ghana that is transitioning to a peri-urban environment. Research shows that food insecurity predicts poor mental health (Cole and Tembo 2011; Hadley and Patil 2008; Lund et al. 2010; Nanama and Frongillo 2012). My project is equally concerned with the reverse prediction, whether poor mental health leads to reduced capacity to assure access to food. Where food accessibility depends upon managing diverse and labor-intensive economic activities meant to procure social and material needs, poor mental health may perpetuate conditions of vulnerability. I propose that this pathway is mediated by physiological stress responses as measured through blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. In turn, I propose that poor mental health, supplemented by elevated cortisol profiles and blood pressure may result in deleterious behavioral responses seen in household socio-economic decision-making processes. I therefore investigate how poor mental health may influence long-term adaptations. I implemented the WEAI in my fieldwork in Ghana to investigate whether empowerment scores have any relationship (correlative or predictive) with food security scores.
Brooke Krause is a Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota and recipient of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. She has an MS degree in Applied Economics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a BS in Economics, International Studies, and Latin American Studies from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Her research interests are in international development, with emphases on education, health and gender. She has worked internationally in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Tanzania, and Uganda. In addition to her dissertation work on women’s empowerment and child health knowledge, she studies youth entrepreneurship training programs in East Africa as the lead quantitative research assistant on a six-year-long evaluation.
Presentation: Women’s Empowerment, Participation in Information Networks, and Child Health Knowledge in Highland Guatemala
Abstract: Using primary data collected in the Guatemalan highlands, this paper analyzes how a woman’s empowerment impacts her ability to participate in health information networks and, thus, her knowledge of child health. This paper conceptualizes empowerment using the WEAI, specifically focusing on a woman’s decision-making influence over household expenditures; agricultural production; income generated from agricultural production; productive capital and assets; and credit. The findings suggest that increased women’s empowerment increases participation in both formal and informal health information networks. Increased empowerment has implications for increasing a woman’s capability to participate in informal networks, including family, friends and neighbors, and improve her social support network. The results furthermore show that an increase in participation in more formal networks of knowledge — such as trained medical professionals, books or brochures — is what leads to more accurate child health knowledge.
Greg Seymour is an Associate Research Fellow at IFPRI. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from American University in May of this year and holds a Masters in Economics from American University. He was a recipient of the 2012-2014 Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships from IFPRI. His research interests include gender analysis, agency/empowerment, development, and time use.
Presentation: Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture: Implications for Agricultural Productivity in Rural Bangladesh
Abstract: Using data from the 2011-2012 Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) and drawing on indicators derived from the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), this paper investigates linkages between women’s empowerment and agricultural productivity using stochastic frontier analysis. Agricultural productivity is measured in terms of technical efficiency (i.e., the ratio of actual output to the maximum technologically feasible level of output given a set of inputs). Women’s empowerment is operationalized in terms of two indicators derived from the WEAI: an aggregate measure of women’s empowerment (the uncensored 5DE) and a measure of women’s group membership. The results highlight the importance of including women’s empowerment, particularly as it relates to group membership, in research on agricultural productivity. First, women’s empowerment is found to be positively associated with higher levels of agricultural productivity for all plots operated by women’s households. Thus, positive spillover effects may exist, in terms of access to social capital or credit, that extend the benefits of women’s empowerment to all household members. Second, gender gaps in agricultural productivity are not estimated to be significant when based on women’s participation in decision-making or ownership status for a particular plot of land, nor when based on female headship.
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