Women’s empowerment in Egypt: the reliability of a complex construct

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29/04/2019 12:00 am

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Women’s empowerment, defined as the process where women acquire enabling resources that enhance their agency, is a strategy employed to improve women’s reproductive health. Agency is conceptualised as the ability to define life choices.

However, measures of women’s agency, such as household decision-making, are thought to be unreliable. Null and negative associations between women’s empowerment and reproductive health are often attributed to weak measures of empowerment that are perceived to lack validity and reliability.

This study uses the 2006 and 2012 Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey and the 2008 and 2014 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey to examine the reliability of measures of women’s agency by considering the effects of women’s individual and household characteristics on women’s agency. Both surveys are nationally representative, from similar time periods and include the same measures of agency – household decision-making and attitudes towards intimate partner violence (IPV). Negative binomial regression models of individual and household determinants of agency demonstrate the degree to which the measures secure consistent results upon repeated application.

Results show that the same individual, household, and spousal characteristics were consistently associated with decision-making and attitudes towards IPV in the two surveys. Findings support the conceptualisation of women’s empowerment as household decision-making and attitudes towards IPV in Egypt.

This also offers promising evidence for use of these measures in reproductive health research, in women’s health programmes, and as part of strategies to improve women’s empowerment.

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