New research explores how women’s empowerment in agriculture matters for nutrition in Ghana

A new study published in the Food Policy journal has used the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) to explore links between empowerment and nutrition among women in Ghana.

Researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looked at women’s empowerment in the five domains included in the WEAI: production, resources, income, leadership, and time use. The assessed the extent that women’s empowerment is linked to the adoption of infant and young child feeding (ICYF) practices and nutrition outcomes for women and children.

Their results show that not all domains of empowerment are associated with all nutrition practices and outcomes but that different domains may have different impacts.

For example, there was a strong link between women participating in credit decisions and having a diverse diet, although participation in credit decisions did not reduce the likelihood of women being underweight. In households where the female decision-maker is involved in production decisions, girls were nine per cent more likely to be exclusively breast-fed between 0-6 months.

Overall, women’s empowerment was more strongly associated with IYCF practices than nutrition outcomes.

There were also surprising negative associations. For example, women being involved in production decisions was linked to girls in the household having a less diverse diet.

The researchers note that previous work on the WEAI in Bangladesh and Nepal has revealed different associations between domains of empowerment and nutritional outcomes. They emphasise that this indicates policies designed to empower women and improve nutritional status need to be based on understanding which specific domains of women’s empowerment matter for particular outcomes in a specific context.

The WEAI was launched in March 2012 by OPHI with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and IFPRI. Unlike any other tool, it also measures women’s empowerment relative to men within their households, providing a more robust understanding of gender dynamics within households and communities.

Further information

What dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture matter for nutrition in Ghana?’, by Hazel Jean L. Malapit and Agnes R. Quisumbing, was published in Food Policy in April 2015.

Read an article on the findings by Lawrence Haddad in the Development Horizons blog.

Find out more about the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index on the OPHI website and download training materials.