Midterm review on the abbreviated Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index
The Midterm Report on abbreviated Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (a-WEAI) details the results from the EOWE midterm review using the a-WEAI, as well as Focus Group Discussions and individual interviews. The overall women’s empowerment in both Kenya and Vietnam has increased. However, not all programme assumptions of how activities would lead to results held true. Recommendations are made for the focus of programme activities in the remaining 1.5 years.
The aim of the midterm review (MTR) on the abbreviated Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (a-WEAI) was to:
a) Establish if progress was made against the focal domains determined at baseline;
b) Establish if underlying assumptions on how change would be brought about in women’s economic empowerment were correct; and
c) Suggest ways forward for the programme.
To this end, the a-WEAI questionnaire was administered in the summer of 2018 in two out of four programme provinces in Vietnam and six out of eight programme counties in Kenya. Following the quantitative survey, Focus Group Discussions (FDGs) and interviews were organized in both Kenya and Vietnam to help better understand the quantitative results, as the participants had also been part of the survey.
At baseline in 2016, 71.8% of Kenyan women and 56.9% of Vietnamese women were considered empowered according to the a-WEAI methodology. In 2018, after 1.5 years of project implementation, these figures went up to respectively to 74.5% and 66.2%. Progress was noted in the programme’s focal domains of Control over use of income, Access to and decision-making power over productive resources, specifically Access to credit, and Leadership in the community. For Control over use of income, the assumption was that by focusing on the importance of joint planning and communication in the household dialogues, women would be involved in a meaningful way in decisions, especially on larger household expenses. At the same time, the enhanced business skills would increase women’s confidence in their abilities and help them voice their opinions at home. These assumptions seem to hold true when looking at the data from the quantitative survey and the FDGs. From the survey, the percentage of women with Control over use of income increased, and from the discussions, women noted that they gained confidence and felt more able to express their views to their husbands.
The programme extended training invitations to women and encouraged them to be involved in community leadership by becoming group leaders. The assumption was that if more women were present in trainings, they would be stimulated to speak up and ask questions. If women would become group leaders, there would be an expectation that they would increase their confidence in their own abilities. These assumptions were true through the results obtained from both the quantitative and qualitative data. EOWE activities have helped women speak up in public and increased their confidence in their own abilities, although taking on official leadership roles in e.g. a cooperative has not been achieved yet. Men’s physical and emotional support (still) seems to be vital for the progress made in the focal domains and for women’s businesses to grow.
Time use was another focal point for consideration. In the a-WEAI Time use is divided into Workload and Leisure time. The programme focused on Workload. This is the sum of productive (income generating) and reproductive (household caring) time spent per day for women and men. EOWE aimed to influence the ratio of productive vs. reproductive time. The assumption was that if men would spend more time helping with household tasks, women would spend less time on those tasks and subsequently spend more time in their businesses.
The quantitative results showed that: (1) men increased their daily time on reproductive time, (2) women spent more time in the household also, and (3) that overall workload has gone up, as both men and women spend more time each day on productive tasks as well. These results were triangulated with the qualitative data.
The sharp increase in reproductive time for men found in the quantitative survey does not resonate with the FDG participants (male and female), although they agree men do help in the household. It seems that men are more aware of women’s workload, and this may have compelled some men to overstate the regular support they provide to reproductive tasks. Women feel there is more appreciation from their husbands for what they do each day.
The qualitative data confirmed the increase in productive time. As women’s enterprises start to grow, diversify and take up more time from women, husbands started to help in the business. For instance, by collecting market produce on their motorbikes or feeding livestock. This has created benefits, such as increased communication between husband and wife, a strengthened relationship and more income. During the FDGs, men and women were very clear that generating income is a much higher priority, which takes precedence over a redistribution of housework. Therefore, men would rather support their wives in their businesses than to start cooking or doing other domestic tasks.
Going forward, the programme should continue focusing on Workload. Developing men’s awareness on and appreciation of the value of housework is a good start. However, expecting men to contribute significantly to household tasks entails changing social norms and takes time. Moreover, this not the main priority for rural households. The programme could shift focus on introducing or promoting easy to use and relatively cheap technologies that could reduce the burden of reproductive tasks for women.
EOWE should also continue to build on the successes that have been booked on the domains of Control over use of income and Leadership in the community. Women have gained confidence and feel they are meaningfully contributing within the household. However, there is still some way to go for women to consider official leadership roles to be within their ability.
Male and female FDG participants appreciate the focus on intra-household communication, as this not only helps to improve the financial situation of the household, but also the bond between husbands and wives. Providing opportunities for men and women to continue the conversation is important.