Empowerment of Women in New Index Agriculture (WEAI) will be officially launched today at the United Nations 56thsession Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. The WEAI is the first time to capture directly measure levels of empowerment and inclusion of women in the agricultural sector.

The index is the product of a partnership between USAID, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) of Oxford University, in support of the power of the president Obama the Future initiative to combat hunger and poverty.
Paul Weisenfeld, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Food Security of USAID, Dr. Sabina Alkire leading OPHI and Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, Senior Research Fellow, Poverty, Health and Nutrition, IFPRI Answer questions about this innovative measure tool.

Q: What is the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index and what it will mean for the food of the Government of the United States the Future initiative?
Pablo: The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index measures empowerment, agency, and the inclusion of women in the agricultural sector to identify ways to overcome obstacles and difficulties impeding the participation and equality of women. The index is an important innovation in the field and aims to increase the understanding of the connections between women’s empowerment, food security and agricultural growth. Measure the functions and level of involvement of women in agriculture in five areas: (1) decisions on agricultural production, (2) access and decision-making power over productive resources, (3) control on the use of revenues, (4) community leadership, and (5) use of time. It also measures the empowerment of women in relation to men within their households.
The WEAI was developed to follow the change in the levels of women’s empowerment that occurs as a direct or indirect result of the interventions under Feed the Future. The United States government believes that the inclusion of women in the agricultural sector growth as a key component of the Feed the Future strategy. We pay close attention to gender mainstreaming in the country, programming, and project level, and trying to make things right at every stage of the initiative. This is where the index plays a critical role; we want to continue to study, assess and monitor how our approaches impacting women, men, and their participation in the overall growth of the agricultural sector.
Q: What does the WEAI so innovative?
Sabina: The WEAI is the first index to capture directly the empowerment of women in agriculture and provides invaluable for empowering women and improving gender equality tools.
The WEAI reveals areas such as loads of time, community leadership, and control of revenues and resources, where women are powerless. It also shows whether a “empowerment gap between women and men in the same house.
And because it gets closer, but also transforms our understanding of who is entitled. So far, wealth and education have been taken as a sign of how women are empowered. The WEAI gives a more accurate picture. Experimental results of Guatemala, for example, show that 76% of the richest women in the region shows are powerless in the agricultural empowerment. The index is constructed by adapting the Alkire Foster method for measuring multidimensional poverty.
Q: If we are seeing that wealth and education does not necessarily mean “empowerment” of women, then what empowerment in the context of agricultural development means?
Agnes: It means that a woman is able to make decisions, have access to the tools you need, get a loan if she needs to buy inputs to increase production, joining a group of women, and assume leadership roles to advance the agricultural production and to address common problems in the community. This means she can control your income, better manage your time, and make sure she stays healthy and productive in their multiple roles. These factors allow a woman to do things like grow food for his family; identify and help raise awareness to address problems affecting the production – such as crop diseases or drought -Assist communities cope with unexpected shocks; bring their products to market; and have the opportunity to both advance and benefit from the opportunities for economic growth.
All this increases the bargaining power of women within the home and its ability to decide how they will spend their income. Our work at IFPRI has shown that women are more likely to spend additional income on health, nutrition and education of their children, as well as other investments that ultimately result in dividends that advance community in general. We know that women’s empowerment is not just what to do – that’s the smartest thing to do. Help prospective families, communities and the broader global good.