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The Women's Empowerment and Nutrition Index (WENI) workshop, 8th February, 2019

CORD-IGIDR-University of Texas, Austin-NIN
The Women's Empowerment in Nutrition Index
A project funded by Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Action (IMMANA)
Background Note

In our extensive combined fieldwork experience, all of us have noted ways in which women's empowerment could potentially be a crucial factor in nutritional outcomes in resource poor and gender-inequitable settings. Recent research has identified generally positive associations between women's empowerment and children's nutritional status. However, findings vary, pointing to the wide variety of empowerment measures used. Further, there remains little research identifying the factors of empowerment that are important for women's nutritional outcomes. We explicitly acknowledge the intrinsic value of healthy, empowered women. Our approach is in contrast to approaches that discuss women's empowerment and health/nutritional status as important primarily for child outcomes. Moreover, many interventions that seek to address empowerment in the agricultural arena often implicitly assume that successful interventions will have positive impacts on women's nutritional health. Yet, studies suggest that the linkage between agricultural and nutritional empowerment are more complex.

To understand the importance of the role of empowerment-related factors in women's nutrition, we propose the concept of nutritional empowerment. We define nutritional empowerment as the process by which individuals acquire the capacity to be well fed and healthy, in a context where this capacity was previously denied to them (Narayanan et al. 2017). This process entails acquiring knowledge about, and a say over, nutritional and health practices; gaining access to and control over intake of adequate and nutritious food; and being able to draw support from both family and other institutions to secure and maintain an adequate diet and health.

To operationalize nutritional empowerment, we bring together two streams of literature with on-theground qualitative research. First, we draw from literature that identifies key drivers of nutritional status ("domains") based on UNICEF's framework for nutrition. Second, we draw on literature that attempts to capture aspects of women's empowerment ("dimensions"). Thus, nutritional empowerment encompasses dimensions of empowerment, including knowledge, resources, agency and achievements (Kabeer 1999; Alkire et al. 2013). These dimensions are applied to nutritionally relevant domains of food, health, fertility and institutions (UNICEF 1990). In our conceptualization of nutritional empowerment, work is a crosscutting theme across domains. On the one hand, some kinds of work (paid work) can bring resources that enable households to invest in better quality of food. On the other, work both paid and unpaid work, including care work, entails effort, often in challenging conditions. Third, partnering with Nijera Kori (Bangladesh) and JJSS (Bihar) and Agragamee, Anwesha, PRADAN and Sambhav (Odisha), we trained civil society and local community members to interview other members of their communities about the barriers to nutrition they face. The questions were open-ended, and we learned that some factors, such as order of eating, the threat of domestic violence, and differential access to healthcare within a household can be substantial nutritional barriers for women but are often not included in nutrition surveys. In sum, nutritional empowerment focuses on aspects of empowerment that are most related to nutritional outcomes.

To be relevant across contexts, our operationalization of empowerment is intentionally broad, incorporating a wide-range of drivers of nutrition. The figure shows the dimensions and domains that constitute women's empowerment and is referred to as the Women's Empowerment in Nutrition (WEN) Grid. We then use the WEN Grid to guide us in survey design, and in decomposing our results into policy-relevant dimension-domains. Ultimately, our estimations from our fit-for-purpose survey will identify how each domain-dimension of nutritional empowerment of women contributes to explaining the nutritional status of women.

Our research using secondary data is promising. Our findings indicate that resources, such as access to clinics, contribute more to women's nutrition than either knowledge or agency, suggesting that programs focused on trainings may have little impact relative to improvements in service provision. Policymakers face an expansive set of nutrition-relevant policy levers, with little information on which levers might be most meaningful. Our work to determine the relative importance of various empowerment-related factors for nutritional status can help guide policymakers in selecting policy interventions that empower women in ways that improve nutritional wellbeing.

Please join us as we share our initial findings and solicit feedback on how to best support women's rights to adequate food and nutrition in South Asia.

CORD-IGIDR-University of Texas, Austin-NIN
The Women's Empowerment in Nutrition Index
A project funded by
Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Action (IMMANA)
Dissemination Workshop
India International Centre, February 8, 2019

9:45-10:00 a.m.

Welcome and introductions

Anuradha De

10:00-10:05 a.m.

Project Overview

Sudha Narayanane

10:05-10:30 a.m.

The Women's Empowerment in Nutrition Index

Sudha Narayanan

10:30-11:30 a.m.

Domains of WENI

Food intake and Health; Fertility Bharati Kulkarni
Institutions Erin Lentz
Work Marzia Fontana

11:30-11:45 a.m.

Tea Break


Qualitative research

Panel: Sabarmatee, JJSS, Agragamee, Anwesha, PRADAN, Nijera Kori
Moderated by Anuradha De and Erin Lentz

12:30-1:00 p.m.

Nutrition empowerment diagnostics: What aspects of nutritional empowerment matter for women's nutritional status? A Shapley- Owen decomposition.

Mohit Sharma and Udayan Rathore

1:00 2:00 p.m.

Implications of Findings for Policy and Practice (to be confirmed)

Alok Nath, Niti Aayog; Srivalli Krishnan, BMGF; Manabi Majumdar, Pratichi Trust; Manjula Menon/R.Bhavani, MSSRF Moderated by Erin Lentz

2:00 2:15 p.m.

Closing remarks

2.15 p.m.


Workshop Coordinator: Sanjeev Kumar, CORD
cordadmn@gmail.com; 011 4652 1587
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