Working paper

Measuring women’s empowerment in selected Southern African countries: Evidence from DHS data

Thandeka Priority Nyathi and Miracle Benhura
May 2021

This study applies multiple correspondence analysis to construct and compare women’s empowerment indices across selected Southern African countries: Lesotho, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. It also investigates the relative importance of four domains of women’s empowerment in these countries. These include household decision-making, economic empowerment, attitudes towards domestic violence, and fertility. The study utilizes 2014/15 Demographic Health and Survey data for each country. The results show that the selected countries have different levels of women’s empowerment. Malawi fares better than Zimbabwe and Lesotho, although significant improvement is still required in all countries. Attitudes towards domestic violence and fertility are considerable contributors to women’s empowerment in these countries, while household decision-making is the least important. These results suggest that strategies to improve women’s empowerment in these countries should accord relatively more focus to domestic violence and fertility. The study also indicates the relevance of a regional rather than a country-specific stance towards empowering women in Southern Africa.

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