Measuring Women’s Autonomy in Chad and its Associations with Breastfeeding Practices Using the Relative Autonomy Index

OPHI Research in Progress

Increasing women’s voice and agency is widely recognised as a key strategy to reduce gender inequalities and improve health outcomes. Although recent studies have found associations between women's autonomy and a number of health outcomes, fundamental issues regarding adequate measurement of women's autonomy remain. The Relative Autonomy Index (RAI) provides a direct measure of motivational autonomy. It expresses the extent to which a woman faces coercive or internalised social pressure to undertake domain-specific actions. This addresses a key critique of current measures of autonomy, which focus on decision-making or ignore women’s values. This paper examines the measurement properties and added value of a number of domain-specific RAIs using new nationally representative data from The Republic of Chad. A striking finding is that women on average have less autonomous motivation in all eight domains compared to their male counterparts. The paper also investigates the relationship between domain-specific RAIs and breastfeeding, a contextually relevant behaviour that affects children's health. 

Citation: Vaz, A., Pratley, P., and Alkire, S. (2015). 'Measuring women’s autonomy in Chad and its associations with breastfeeding practices using the Relative Autonomy Index', OPHI Research in Progress paper No. 44a, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

Also published in Feminist Economics, 2016, Vol. 22(1), pp. 264–294.

Chad, women's autonomy, Relative Autonomy Index, poverty measurement
Sub-Saharan Africa

Ana Vaz, Pierre Pratley and Sabina Alkire
Series Name
Research in Progress series
Publication date
Publication Number
RP 44a