U.S. Considers ‘Women’s Empowerment’ in Aid, Agency Says

An index on women’s empowerment in agriculture will help to evaluate the performance of aid initiatives and shape how future programs are designed, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index will track their involvement in farming decisions and income, as well as leadership in their communities, the agency said today. By understanding women’s roles in farming, aid programs can be more effectively designed and administered, said Tjada McKenna, deputy development coordinator for the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative.

“It will help us see what our results have been and more effectively do programming going forward,” McKenna said during a conference call with reporters to discuss the index developed by the agency, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Oxford University.

The index will be applied to all programs in Feed the Future, under which President Barack Obama pledged $3.5 billion in the next three years to help developing nations improve agricultural capacity. The U.S. funding is intended to generate $18.5 billion in additional donations to improve agricultural infrastructure.

World food prices fell 5.8 percent last year after reaching a record in February 2011, according to United Nations data. Global costs increased 1.9 percent in January.

The index was developed through pilot programs in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda and also includes household surveys of both genders that help determine the relative equality between women and men. Money and education, two traditional proxy measures of women’s empowerment, are not necessarily the best indicators, according to research.

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