Category Archives: Gender

08 Mar 2018

International Women’s Day through the lens of the India National Family Health Survey

For over 20 years, The DHS Program has collected information related to women’s empowerment, experience of spousal violence, women’s participation in decision making, and, more recently, women’s access to money and credit.

International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the progress women have made based on one of our most highly anticipated surveys. The 2015-16 India National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) comes 10 years after the previous 2005-06 India NFHS-3. Since then, early marriage (before the legal age) has become less common, more married women age 15-49 are participating in all 3 household decisions, and fewer men agree that wife beating is justified. Fertility is also approaching replacement level with women in India having an average of 2.2 children, down from 2.7 children per woman in 2005-06.

But there is still room for improvement. Less than one-third (31%) of married women age 15-49 in India are employed compared with 98% of men. 1 in 4 ever-married women have experienced spousal violence in the past 12 months and this proportion has remained unchanged in the last decade. Only 14% of women who have ever experienced violence have sought help to end the violence.

And for the first time, NFHS-4 provides district-level estimates for most indicators. Discover more in the 2005-16 NFHS-4 State Reports.

You can still get involved on International Women’s Day by sharing this infographic on women’s empowerment in India on Facebook. Compare other women’s empowerment indicators across over 90 countries using this easy-to-use mini-tool and even more on STATcompiler.

Download the 2015-16 India National Family Health Survey dataset here.

Photo Credit: © 2014 Prasanta Biswas, Courtesy of Photoshare

08 Mar 2016

On International Women’s Day: A Pledge for Accountability

International Women’s Day, March 8, never fails to give me pause: while it provides a time and space to celebrate women’s achievements and evaluate progress toward attaining gender equality, it also makes me wonder when we – all of humanity – will no longer need to set aside a special day to focus attention on fully half of humanity. It is disappointing that despite the nearly half century since the publication of Ester Boserup’s 1970 game changing Women’s Role in Economic Development which documented women’s critical and largely ignored role in agriculture, we are still only “pledging for parity” and are nowhere near achieving it.  Boserup’s work showed that in many economies women did half or more of agricultural work while also contributing significantly to trade.

Spousal Violence and HIV: Exploring the linkages in five sub-Saharan African countries

For me, Boserup’s work has special meaning. Not only did her insights change the way I looked at women’s role in development, but also because 22 years ago it indirectly gave rise to my very first job in the United States. In 1993, I joined DHS as its first and only Women-in-Development Analyst. The job title sounds archaic now, but back then the change from a focus on women’s roles in development to the role of gender in providing the context and constraints for women’s full participation in development was just beginning. By the end of the 1990s, the shift from WID to GAD (Gender and Development) was complete and my title eventually reflected this change.

…for us at The DHS Program, the 2016 International Women’s Day call of ‘Pledge for Parity’ translates into a pledge to continue providing the highest quality data and analysis to hold the world accountable for the continuing gap in the achievement of gender equality.

Women's Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment since 2000

As the newly minted DHS WID analyst, I was asked to develop a module of survey questions that could be included in a DHS and would provide information on gender relations in the household and the context of women’s lives. At that time, almost 10 years after the DHS project was initiated, the DHS woman’s questionnaire, designed primarily to measure key demographic and health indicators, had almost no information on women’s status. The only information related to women’s status was education, age at first marriage, and employment. Thus in developing a women’s status module, I had a pretty clean slate to work with. The module that was finally developed and piloted as part of the 1995 Egypt DHS covered many aspects of women’s status including household decision making, dowry payments, attitudes towards women’s roles and spousal violence, ownership and control of assets, freedom of movement, financial autonomy, and exposure to violence. Though never fielded again in its initial form, the module became the basis of DHS’s ongoing contributions to understanding the role of gender and women’s empowerment in the achievement of demographic and health goals.

Men and Contraception: Trends in Attitudes and Use

Today The DHS Program continues its 20+ year tradition of providing reliable and consistent data on women’s roles in the household, violence against women, and female genital cutting. The power of these data comes not only from the information they provide on women’s lives, but also from the fact that these data are collected alongside demographic, health and nutrition data for the same women. This holistic approach enables The DHS Program to go beyond just providing gender indicators to the world, to providing in-depth analyses that help highlight women’s contributions, constraints and gender inequities in the context of demographic change, health, and social and economic development. Thus for us at The DHS Program, the 2016 International Women’s Day call of “Pledge for Parity” translates into a pledge to continue providing the highest quality data and analysis to hold the world accountable for the continuing gap in the achievement of gender equality.

 

10 Dec 2014

Gender in the Demographic & Health Surveys: Past, Present, & Future

This post is part of a series commemorating 30 years of The DHS Program.

When I first started at The DHS Program in late 1993 as a Women-in-Development Specialist, the survey questionnaires contained few questions that could shed light on the impact of gender on demographic behavior and health. While the questionnaires were designed to collect all kinds of information on women’s and children’s health, women’s use of contraception, fertility, mortality and nutrition, there was virtually no information on the status of the women themselves other than information on their education and employment. In other words, there was little information that provided insights into the gendered context within which the health and demographic behavior of women and households was being determined.

1995 Egypt DHS

1995 Egypt DHS

So I had a lot of work to do. My challenge was to develop a parsimonious module of questions that in the future could potentially be used by DHS surveys across the world to better understand the role that gender plays in demographic and health outcomes. To this end I put together a set of questions on women’s status based on a thorough literature review and an examination of several studies that used questionnaires to measure women’s status and gender relations in the household. Once ready we managed to include this module of questions in the 1995 Egypt DHS. Preparing the module was challenging since the literature provided mostly proxy indicators of women’s status at the household level, but few that could directly measure empowerment. Additionally, since one of the key features of The DHS Program is that it provides comparable data across countries, I needed questions that had similar meaning across cultures with widely varying perceptions of women’s roles. The pilot of the Women’s Status Module in the Egypt DHS yielded a lot of useful information and helped determine the key indicators that would be useful to have for most countries such as the questions on women’s role in household decision making, their attitudes towards spousal violence, and barriers to accessing health care for themselves.

1998 Nicaragua DHS

1998 Nicaragua DHS

Another gender-related topic that really increased in importance during my tenure as the Senior Gender Advisor to The DHS Program is domestic violence. The women’s status module implemented in Egypt contained only a couple of questions on women’s experience of domestic violence and the 1990 and the 1995 Colombia DHS surveys included country-specific questions on domestic violence. Then in 1998, a module of questions that utilized a modified conflict tactics scale approach (Strauss 1990) to the measurement of violence was implemented in the Nicaragua DHS. It was this module that became the foundation for the core DHS Domestic Violence Module which was finalized and piloted around 2000. Overtime we also developed a protocol for the ethical collection of data on violence, particularly for the protection of female respondents and field interviewers. However, having a standardized module and protocols for its implementation, did not mean that countries were immediately interested in collecting information on domestic violence. There was first a need to try and overcome commonly held beliefs that domestic violence was not a State concern and had no place in a demographic and health survey. Additionally few believed that women would be willing to talk about their experiences of violence.

The 1995 Egypt DHS marked a new chapter in the life of The DHS Program. Questions on women’s empowerment are now part of the core questionnaire and asked in most countries. The Domestic Violence Module has been included in more than 95 surveys in over 50 countries. Survey data have been used for major legislation, advocacy efforts, and national programs to protect women in their own homes in countries as diverse as Moldova, Uganda, Timor Leste, and Zimbabwe. Analysis of DHS data has convincingly linked violence with negative reproductive health outcomes and HIV, showing that violence is an important public health issue as well as a violation of individual rights.

In the coming years, The DHS Program will continue to collect more information on women’s empowerment. The 2014 revised survey instruments now include questions on women’s ownership of mobile phones, personal bank accounts, and ownership and co-ownership of property. We have come a long way since the first pilot module on women’s status, and we will continue to be on the forefront of research into women’s lives.

Reference

Straus, M.A. 1990. Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: the conflict tactic (CT) scales. In M.A. Straus and R.J. Gelles (eds.) Physical Violence in American families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families. 29-47. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

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