Women’s empowerment and impact on child nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Using Demographic and Health Survey data from 20 sub-Saharan African countries, this chapter conceptualizes and measures women’s empowerment based on women’s ability to negotiate informal institutions or have access to economic resources, and examines their differential effect on child nutrition. By constructing a Composite Women Empowerment Index (CWEI) we are able to confirm the view that women’s empowerment has positive returns to child nutrition. Decomposed models and simulations comparing women’s ability to negotiate informal institutions with access to economic resources suggest that the former has a higher effect on child nutrition than the latter. Nonetheless, traditional factors (women’s education, household wealth, access to health services) have a higher effect on child nutrition compared with women’s empowerment either as a composite or disaggregated. Thus, we advocate that using women’s empowerment as a channel to improving household outcomes such as child nutrition should target women’s access not only to economic resources, but also to informal institutions. The chapter cautions, however, that emphasis on women’s empowerment should not be at the expense of equally important traditional factors that have direct benefits both for child nutrition and women’s empowerment in the short and long run.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhat works for Africa's poorest children
Subtitle of host publicationfrom measurement to action
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2020