There is no standard definition of women’s economic empowerment and the term is often used loosely. From the literature reviewed for this report, it would appear that the majority of efforts to measure women’s economic empowerment programmes focus primarily on quantitative outcomes – such as increased access to credit or increased revenue – even where the stated objectives include broader empowerment goals. Whilst some evaluations include variables to show that women have not been disempowered, few succeed in showing that specific aspects of women’s power have actually increased (e.g., more household resources dedicated to women’s consumption and personal time, increased women’s decision making and control over household resources, increased autonomy). As is often noted in the literature, positive outcomes in financial terms do not necessarily equate to empowerment and can even have disempowering effects.
One recent attempt at developing a conceptual framework for evaluating economic empowerment is the International Center for Research on Women’s (ICRW) Results-based Initiative. Another promising initiative, although not focussed exclusively on economic empowerment, is Care International’s Strategic Impact Inquiry on Women’s Empowerment.
Approaches to measuring women’s empowerment in more broad terms are of course relevant to evaluating economic empowerment, especially given the limitations of existing frameworks. Such approaches generally involve defining what is meant by empowerment and identifying the different elements which make up this definition. In most cases, these elements are then broken down into sub-dimensions with associated indicators and sources of measurement. There are, however, also examples of more qualitative approaches such as appreciative enquiry and qualitative self-assessment.