Measuring women’s autonomy in Chad

Women in Chad are significantly less autonomous than men, according to a new study published in the OPHI Research in Progress series.

Researchers from OPHI and George Washington University used the Relative Autonomy Index (RAI) to assess men’s and women’s motivational autonomy in the Republic of Chad across eight different domains of life, including household activities such as cleaning or doing laundry, making major household purchases, participating in groups, and employment. The RAI directly measures the extent to which a person’s motivation for his or her behaviour in a specific domain, or aspect of life, is autonomous as opposed to controlled.

Using a nationally representative dataset, the study found that women in Chad on average had less autonomous motivation in all eight domains compared to their male counterparts.

The researchers also investigated the relationship between women’s autonomy and breastfeeding. They found that motivational autonomy at the community-level was associated with likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life. Women that live in clusters where other women have higher autonomy in household activities were on average more likely to exclusively breastfeed their children than women that live in more coerced environments.

In comparison, there was no significant positive association between breastfeeding and motivational autonomy at the individual level. The researchers suggest this indicates that in the Republic of Chad, motivational autonomy might work through mechanisms at the community rather than the individual level.

On average across the country, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life was 38.4%.

The study also explores the correlation between autonomy and indicators of psychological and subjective wellbeing. It found that relative autonomy was weakly correlated with psychological wellbeing, but had no clear relationship with subjective wellbeing – it was even negatively correlated with the indicators of overall life satisfaction and happiness.

Read the full paper

Measuring Women’s Autonomy in Chad and its Associations with Breastfeeding Practices Using the Relative Autonomy Index, by Ana Vaz, Pierre Pratley and Sabina Alkire, was published in the OPHI Research in Progress series in August 2015.

Please note that OPHI Research in Progress papers are preliminary documents posted online to stimulate discussion and critical comment.