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Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology

Gram, LZ; Skordis-Worrall, J; Morrison, J; (2019) Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology. Social Indicators Research , 143 (3) pp. 1349-1376. 10.1007/s11205-018-2012-2. Green open access

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Abstract

Improving the conceptualisation and measurement of women's empowerment has been repeatedly identified as a research priority for global development policy. We apply arguments from feminist and political philosophy to develop a unified typology of empowerment concepts to guide measurement and evaluation. In this typology, empowerment (1) may be a property of individuals or collectives (2) may involve removing internal psychological barriers or external interpersonal barriers (3) may be defined on each agent’s own terms or by external agents in advance (4) may require agents to acquire a degree of independence or require others to ‘empower’ them through social support (5) may either concern the number of present options or the motivations behind past choices. We argue a careful examination of arguments for and against each notion of empowerment reveal fundamental fact-, theory- and value-based incompatibilities between contrasting notions. Thus, empowerment is an essentially contested concept that cannot be captured by simply averaging a large number of contrasting measures. We argue that researchers and practitioners measuring this concept may benefit from making explicit their theory-, fact- and value-based assumptions about women’s empowerment before settling on a single primary measure for their particularly context. Alternative indicators can subsequently be used as sensitivity measures that not only measure sensitivity to assumptions about women’s social reality, but also to investigators’ own values.

Type: Article
Title: Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11205-018-2012-2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-018-2012-2
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Women’s empowerment, Critical review, Low- and middle-income countries, International development, Feminism, Political philosophy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10061195
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