Scientific Publication

Developing the Women's Empowerment in Nutrition Index in Two States of India


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 anemia, 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.