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Developing a nutrition-sensitive pro-WEAI

2016 April 4
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

GAAP2 team members Jessica Heckert and Sunny Kim have written a blog for A4NH's Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange in which they share some highlights of the discussions that took place in the nutrition working group at the GAAP2 Inception Workshop and discuss the development of a nutrition-specifc module within the pro-WEAI.

Photo credit: Cassie Chandler/Freedom from Hunger

Since the launch of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) in 2012 and later its abbreviated form (A-WEAI), it has been widely used to measure and understand women’s empowerment and inclusion in the agricultural sector. Owing to the demand from agricultural development projects for a tool that can be used to measure empowerment in a project setting, the next phase of the WEAI includes adapting and validating the tool for use in agricultural development projects (pro-WEAI). Pro-WEAI will include indicators that are relevant for specific types of agricultural interventions (e.g., crops, livestock, irrigation, natural resources) and sensitive to change during a project lifespan, typically three to five years. Also, as many agricultural projects aim to improve nutrition, an important question to consider is: how can pro-WEAI become nutrition-sensitive?

How would measures of women’s empowerment for nutrition-sensitive agricultural projects differ?

Increasingly, agricultural development projects incorporate nutrition-sensitive designs and address the underlying causes of undernutrition, including food insecurity, poor healthcare, and inadequate resources for optimal care of children (Ruel et al., 2013). To understand if women’s empowerment is changing in the context of agricultural interventions, we must be able to identify the aspects of women’s empowerment related to nutrition and measure them, not only with regard to production and the agricultural sector, but also as they are related to access and use of food, health services, and caregiving at the individual, household, and community levels. This involves considering women’s empowerment beyond its relationship to increased production and income, and identifying additional pathways of influence that can improve the health and nutrition of beneficiaries of agricultural development projects (PDF 343 KB). Such dimensions may lie outside the purview of traditional agricultural programming, yet have been shown to be key to achieving good nutritional outcomes.

GAAP2 Inception Workshop, photo credit: Stephan Dohrn/Radical Inclusion

GAAP2 Inception Workshop, photo credit: Stephan Dohrn/Radical Inclusion

Meeting project needs

At the GAAP2 inception workshop in Nairobi, program implementers and evaluators voiced the types of women’s empowerment indicators that they need for their nutrition-sensitive interventions. Women often face barriers to optimizing nutritional inputs, and these barriers differ from those they face when participating in production activities. Social norms may dictate who has first access to food, what women and children can eat, and how or when healthcare is accessed. Moreover, intra-household dynamics may enhance or limit whether women’s empowerment in agriculture translates into improved nutrition.

Across project sites in South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara, practitioners expressed the importance of women’s access to and control over resources, and their input into decisions that matter for improving their own nutrition as well as that of their children and families. For instance, a pregnant woman in Bangladesh may be influenced by her mother or mother-in-law to consume less food, in the hopes of a smaller baby and easier labor. Or, despite her primary role in raising poultry, a woman in Uganda may be instructed by her husband to sell all the eggs rather than to reserve some to feed them to her young child. Across these various contexts, workshop participants agreed that indicators to capture women’s empowerment related to nutrition are needed.

Photo credit: Pradan

Photo credit: Pradan

Identifying domains relevant for nutrition

Improving nutritional outcomes involves empowering women across multiple domains. Undernutrition is a result of poor diet and illness, which are caused by underlying conditions of food insecurity, inadequate health services, unhygienic environments, and inadequate care (UNICEF, 1990). Any areas of women’s empowerment that directly affect nutrition would operate via their influence on these domains of food, health, and care. Thus indicators should emphasize the control of inputs and the social dynamics around these domains.

Working groups throughout the workshop highlighted the domains in which women may be empowered or disempowered to optimize these inputs. We began to unravel these pathways and discussed how we might go about measuring them. For example, food inputs may rely both on women being able to produce nutrient-rich foods and whether they can allocate the nutrient-rich foods that they produce to household members in need of these nutrients. Seeking preventative and curative healthcare, important inputs for improved nutrition, may depend on women’s freedom of movement, access to resources to pay for services, and intra-household dynamics that dictate whether women can make these decisions.  Whereas many other aspects of women’s empowered may be associated with nutrition such as maternal autonomy and attitudes about domestic violence (van den Bold, 2013), their importance is not unique to nutrition outcomes and may be included in other domains of pro-WEAI, or as other project indicators.

Filling in the gap

While various surveys including the Demographic and Health Surveys and Feed the Future Surveys collect data on women’s empowerment, these large surveys are often limited in the number of indicators they collect (Heckert and Fabic, 2013). Thus there are still large gaps in terms of the data necessary to understand the complex relationships among nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions, women’s empowerment, and nutrition. The development of a nutrition-specific module within pro-WEAI and the collection of related data provides a unique opportunity to better understand the relationship between women’s empowerment and nutrition and identify the types of interventions that empower women and improve nutrition outcomes for women, children, and their families.



Heckert J, Fabic M (2013). Improving Data Concerning Women’s Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Studies in Family Planning, 44(3):319–44.

Ruel MT, Alderman H, and Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group (2013). Nutrition-sensitive interventions and programmes: how can they help to accelerate progress in improving maternal and child nutrition? The Lancet. 382(9891): 536-551.

UNICEF (1990). Strategy for Improved Nutrition of Children and Women in Developing Countries. New York: UNICEF. 1990.

van den Bold M, Quisumbing AR, Gillespie S (2013) Women’s empowerment and nutrition: an evidence review. International Food Policy Research Institute Discussion Paper. #01294.


This blog was originally posted on A4NH's Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange.

WEAI featured on International Women’s Day 2016

2016 March 8
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

On International Women’s Day 2016, IFPRI is highlighting the role of data and evidence to empower women in Bangladesh, with a series of blogs and interviews.

  • Agnes Quisumbing writes on how findings from a survey in Bangladesh which used the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) inspired policymakers to pilot an integrated agriculture program which aims to empower women and improve nutrition. The program titled “Orienting Agriculture Toward Improved Nutrition and Women’s Empowerment”, better known as ANGeL (Agriculture, Nutrition and Gender Linkages), is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh with technical assistance from Helen Keller International and IFPRI and is part of the GAAP2 portfolio. The full blog can be read here.
  • In an interview on Periscope, GAAP2 team members, Hazel Malapit and Greg Seymour talk about the WEAI, their roles in the development of the index, what they have learnt and some recent findings from Bangladesh.

New paper: Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects

2016 February 25
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

A new paper co-authored by GAAP PIs and other  GAAP1 team members, synthesizing the findings of the 8 impact evaluations of projects which were part of the first phase of GAAP, is now available. The evaluations used mixed methods to show the impact agricultural development programs have on individual and household assets in seven countries in Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia.

While all projects showed an increase in assets at the household level, only 4 were able to increase women’s control of assets, and only one project contributed to a reduction in the gender-asset gap. Similarly, many projects showed an increase in women’s income but were unable to increase the relative control women have over income from projects.

The review did find, however, that even in cases where there were no impacts on asset ownership and control over income, the interventions improved women’s lives and welfare and influenced underlying norms about women’s work and participation in decision-making.

In addition to the quantitative and qualitative findings from GAAP1 on the importance of paying greater attention to gender and assets by researchers and development implementers, the methodological contributions made by the program to the study of gender and assets will be used and built upon in the second phase of GAAP (GAAP2).

More information about the GAAP1 portfolio can be found here.

The paper ‘Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects’ is open-access and can be read here.

Development of a project-level WEAI begins at the GAAP2 inception workshop

2016 February 17
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by Mysbah Balagamwala

On January 27-29 2016, the IFPRI-led Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project  held an inception workshop to kick-off its second phase (GAAP2). The workshop was organized in collaboration with AWARD at the beautiful World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. About 60 people participated in the workshop, including the GAAP2 core team and partners, the GAAP2 External Advisory Committee (EAC) and most importantly representatives from projects that have been short-listed to be part of GAAP2.

Workshop participants at the ICRAF campus, Photo credit: AWARD

Workshop participants at the ICRAF campus, Photo credit: AWARD

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), with the participation of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), GAAP2 aims to develop project-level indicators for measuring women’s empowerment and to identify the most effective strategies that agricultural development projects can use to empower women. The workshop was the first opportunity for members of the GAAP2 community to convene and get to know each other while achieving the following objectives:

  • Develop a shared understanding of the overall initiative, its objectives, and modalities
  • Learn about measures of women’s empowerment, particularly the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) and their uses in development programming.
  • Develop components of a project-level WEAI (pro-WEAI) that can be used for  assessing the impact of different types of agricultural development projects on women’s empowerment
  • Lay the foundation for a GAAP2 Community of Practice (CoP) and develop outreach strategies for engaging with projects that are not directly included in the GAAP2 portfolio
  • Review the GAAP2 timeline and discuss how individual pro-WEAI pilots fit into that timeline and how these can be used to identify strategies that work to empower women

Getting to know the WEAI

The GAAP2 core team presented the WEAI and its modifications (the Abbreviated WEAI or A-WEAI). The presentations focused on the rationale behind the creation of the index, its strengths and weaknesses and how it has been applied so far. The next stage of the WEAI will be the development of the pro-WEAI which will be implemented by the GAAP2 projects and the integration of the pro-WEAI into the projects’ impact assessment plans.

Poster session at the workshop. Photo credit: Stephan Dohrn

Poster session at the workshop. Photo credit: Stephan Dohrn

GAAP2 projects

Projects teams presented their interventions and proposed impact assessment strategies in a poster session - the GAAP2 portfolio has a diverse mix of projects ranging from livestock interventions to home gardens to financial inclusion programs and nutrition-sensitive agriculture extension programs. This was followed by a trivia contest about the information presented with exciting prizes (chocolates and coffee) for those with the highest points.


Group work to develop the pro-WEAI

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to developing the pro-WEAI. The group was divided first according to project themes (livestock, crops, income, nutrition) and then dimensions of women’s empowerment (access and use to information, individual empowerment, intrahousehold dynamics, physical mobility, empowerment with respect to nutrition). The purpose of the group work was to (a) propose additions or modifications to the existing A-WEAI module and (b) brainstorm over potential add-on modules to the A-WEAI. The group sessions resulted in some great ideas which will be used by the GAAP2 core team to develop survey modules for the pro-WEAI.

Community of Practice

An important feature of GAAP2 is the CoP which will allow members of GAAP2 to communicate and collaborate with each other throughout the duration of the project. In addition to the GAAP2 CoP, a larger community will be created for those interested in following the project and using the pro-WEAI in their work.


There were many opportunities for participants to get to know each over the course of the workshop. Project teams not only met each other and learnt about their respective projects, but also got introduced to the members of the GAAP2 team who will support the projects with their research.


Resources from the workshop

Workshop agenda [PDF, 705KB]

Workshop summary report [PDF, 1.31MB]

Recorded sessions

Presentation slides

A-WEAI questionnaire and manual




2015 August 7
Comments Off on GAAP2
by ckovarik


The GAAP team at IFPRI has some exciting news to share! The International Food Policy Research Institute has received a second round of support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to adapt and validate a measure of women’s empowerment that agricultural development projects can use to diagnose key areas of women’s (and men’s) disempowerment, design appropriate strategies to address deficiencies, and monitor project outcomes related to women’s empowerment. This empowerment measure will be based on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) developed by IFPRI, USAID, and OPHI (Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative), but will be adapted for project use. This second round, called GAAP2, will run for five years (2015-2020) and will build on the experience of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP, 2010-2014), which worked with a set of agricultural development projects to incorporate gender into their M&E frameworks and evaluate their impacts on women’s assets. This work is undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) led by IFPRI, and will be complementary to ongoing efforts to use and adapt the WEAI, supported by USAID. For the call for concept notes, click here. For an editable Word version of the call, click here.

Also, please review our list of FAQs on the GAAP2 call (updated September 2, 2015). We will continue to add to this list as we receive more questions. If your question is not included in this list, please email us at

New Report: Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment

2015 July 29
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by ckovarik

A new report, Measuring Women's Economic Empowerment, was recently released by the United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation. It summarizes recommendations to assess intermediate, direct, and final outcomes of programs targeting women's economic empowerment. This report is meant as a companion to an earlier report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment.

In addition, two complementary documents were produced:

More information on the initiative can be found at:

Technical Guide now available!

2014 November 21
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by ckovarik

The GAAP team is happy to announce the release of our new technical guide!

This new guide, Reducing the Gender Asset Gap Through Agricultural Development, explains the importance of assets - both tangible assets such as land, labor, and animals and intangible assets such as education, financial capital, and social networks - for development, and the wide gap that exists between men and women in the use, control, and ownership of these assets. With practical lessons and recommendations, the guide shows how to collect data and design and monitor projects to address this gender asset gap, clarifying how each step of the project - from design to evaluation - can attend to gender differences. It also identifies both qualitative and quantitative tools to use in collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data on assets.

Along with the research findings laid out in the GAAP project notes and discussion papers, and an updated GAAP toolkit for collecting data, this technical guide completes a full package of resources for researchers and practitioners working to improve women's equality and economic status in the developing world.

Happy reading!

Updated GAAP toolkit now available

2014 October 8
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by ckovarik

gaapThe GAAP Gender & Assets toolkit, originally created in February 2012, has now been updated! This updated version includes case studies from each of the portfolio projects, a new section on key "lessons learned", and links to the tools used in each project.

The new version of the toolkit can be found here. Individual case studies can also be read here.

Tools used in GAAP now available!

2014 September 25
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by ckovarik

The tools used by each of the projects in GAAP have now been posted on the website! These include both qualitative and quantitative tools. For more information on what worked and didn't with each of these tools, we recommend you read the case studies, in particular the interviews with project leads. The tools can all be found at the Questionnaires tab above, or by clicking on the link to each specific project below.





Harvest Plus




Land O'Lakes

Power Points from DC Outreach Event

2014 May 12
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by ckovarik

Last Thursday, GAAP hosted an outreach event in Washington, DC to present the findings from some of the projects in the GAAP portfolio. The morning event began with a welcome by Agnes Quisumbing and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, two of the four Principle Investigators of the GAAP, who also gave a presentation on the GAAP conceptual framework and an overview of the project.

The event also included presentations from Dan Gilligan and Neha Kumar on the Harvest Plus Reaching End Users (REU) project, from David Spielman on the CSISA laser land leveling project, from Deanna Olney on the Helen Keller International project, from Shalini Roy on BRAC's Targeting the Ultra Poor project, and from Agnes Quisumbing on CARE's Strengthing the Dairy Value Chain (SDVC) project. The presenters were joined by session chairs Keith Weibe and Marie Ruel, from IFPRI.

The event concluded with closing remarks from John McDermott, Director of the CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).