Discussing Women's Empowerment - Sida

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Discussing Women's Empowerment - Sida

44 RESOURCES, AGENCY, ACHIEVEMENTS • KABEER

their political and legal awareness as well as in the composite empowerment

index. Furthermore, access to credit was also associated with higher

levels of mobility, political participation and involvement in ‘major decision-making’

for particular credit organisations. Finally, the study explored

the separate effects of women’s economic contribution to the

household budget and their access to credit on the various empowerment

indicators and found that separating out women’s economic contribution

reduced the impact of women’s access to credit, but the independent impact

of access to credit on the empowerment indicators remained significant.

In other words, access to credit and the size of reported economic

contributions were each sufficient but not necessary for the achievement of empowerment-related

outcomes. Together, their effects were mutually reinforcing.

This comparison of different approaches to the quantification of empowerment

in the context of the same set of credit programmes highlights

very clearly the need for the triangulation of evidence in order to ensure

that indicators mean what they are intended to mean. The absence of

such supportive evidence carries the danger that analysts will load meanings

onto their indicators which reflect their own disciplinary, methodological

or political leanings rather than the realities they are seeking to

portray. Triangulation requires that multiple sources of information are

brought to bear on the interpretation of an indicator thereby guarding

against the interpretative bias of the analyst. It should be noted that the

indicators used by Hashemi et al. were devised on the basis of a prior

ethnographic study, rather than being derived from a priori assumptions,

and explains their greater persuasiveness as measures of what they sought

to measure. While their indicators focused largely on different aspects of

women’s agency, it could be argued that each manifestation of agency

measured also constituted a valued achievement in itself.

Section 3: Measuring Empowerment: the Problem of Values

Status, autonomy and the relevance of context

I have so far focused on the problem of meaning in the selection of indicators

of empowerment: do indicators mean what they are supposed to

mean? I want to turn now to the question of values and how they complicate

attempts to conceptualise and measure women’s empowerment.

Let me start with the question of emic or ‘insider values’ before going on

to consider the complications introduced by outsider values. The main

way in which ‘insider values’ have been captured in studies dealing with

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