Working Paper: The Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index

No: WP-2019-020

AUTHOR:  Sudha Narayanan, Erin Lentz, Marzia Fontana, Anuradha De, and Bharati Kulkarni

TITLE: The Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index

Abstract :

Rural women face many obstacles that thwart their well-being. Policies that seek to empower them, for example, by improving livelihood opportunities, often do not translate into improvements in other areas, notably in their nutritional status. Indeed, many existing measures of women’s empowerment have ambiguous associations with indicators of nutritional status. This is likely because existing operationalizations of empowerment often focus on aspects that are somewhat distal from factors that influence nutrition. In this paper, we present an index that aims to measure women’s empowerment in the realm of nutrition. 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. Our index draws on theory and multi-site formative research from South Asia and captures multiple dimensions of empowerment spanning domains that influence nutritional outcomes. We construct this index using data from two sites in India and validate it by estimating two nutritional outcomes, body mass index (BMI) and anaemia, as a function of the index. We find that our index is significantly associated with these outcomes, indicating that in rural South Asia, the women’s empowerment in nutrition index can assist researchers to understand the nutritional status of women and their families.

Keywords:  gender, rural, nutrition, South Asia, empowerment

JEL Code:  J16, D63, I00