175266 Evolving dimensions of women's empowerment in rural Bangladesh

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sidney Ruth Schuler, PhD , Academy for Educational Development, Washington, DC
Lisa M. Bates, ScD , Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY
Elisabeth Ann Rottach, MA , Global Health Population & Nutrition, Academy for Educational Development, Washington, DC
Farzana Islam , Associate Professor of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
The empowerment of women has been widely acknowledged as an important goal in international health and development; many international bilateral and multilateral donors now include women's empowerment as an element in their health and development strategies. This study set in longstanding research sites in three villages of rural Bangladesh re-examines the concept of women's empowerment and the stability and salience of specific empowerment indicators in a period of normative change. We conducted qualitative interviews assessing the validity of seven empowerment measures (each an index derived from multiple sub-indicators) with a contrast sample of married women from the 25% most- and least-empowered in a 2002 survey, examining possible differences in the meanings and relevance of specific empowerment indicators for younger vs. older women. We also compared women's scores on each of the seven dimensions between 1994, 2002 and 2006–2007. Despite a moderately high degree of change in empowerment scores from one survey to the next, most of our original indicators of empowerment still appeared to be valid conceptually; many of the sub-indicators, however, were no longer appropriate. The paper presents specific examples of empowerment dimensions that have undergone change, explains the underlying social processes resulting in this change, and provides examples of new indicators that may prove to be more meaningful and/or measurable than those we and other researchers have previously used in surveys. We also discuss the potential to adapt these indicators for use in other settings.

Learning Objectives:
Explain how and why the salience of women’s empowerment measures can change over time. Describe a method for validating and revising empowerment measures.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I collaborated with the PI to develop research methodology and I analyzed data.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.