Annex III: Women’s Empowerment Indicators Another key area of learning that staff identified from CARE’s journey in Burundi has been its work in identifying indicators for women’s empowerment. Teams for two projects -- Kirumara and Umwizero -- took part in the research. The research was also linked to CARE’s Strategic Impact Inquiry on women’s empowerment, a 3 year impact research initiative that involved 30 countries with the specific goal of fostering a culture of critical thinking in CARE, and with those we serve. For this research, CARE aimed to draw its working definition of women’s empowerment from the voices of the women and communities it seeks to serve. Through interviews and focus group discussions with men and women from communities where CARE works, project staff explored local definitions of women’s empowerment as well as obstacles to empowerment. Community debates were led by representatives from women’s solidarity groups during which participants discussed characteristics of empowerment, their dreams and aspirations as well as barriers they faced against gender equity or empowerment. What were key themes about empowerment from women’s responses? From the studies, a number of key themes emerged as critical to women’s empowerment: · Matrimonial stability - many women viewed legalized marriage as a form of protection from abandonment and for their rights to be upheld. However, the possible negative effects or harms from legalized marriage are not yet clear and CARE must continue research on this aspect of empowerment in order to understand the dynamics of marriage for women’s empowerment as well as possible harms that may result from legalized marriage or civil unions. · Access to income - many women discussed the importance of earning their own money as a key for greater empowerment and independence from men. The research also found that not all women had equal access to credit. This discovery called for greater research on how age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, literacy and behaviors may limit or preclude women’s participation in groups or gain access to credit. · Management of household resources - Typically men are responsible for decisions on how household resources are allocated. Thus, women felt that greater decision-making power was important for them to gain respect and minimize household conflicts. · Involvement in community decision-making - In addition to greater voice and participation in household decision- making, women also expressed the desire to take greater responsibilities at the community level. This involves both taking part in conflict resolution as well as community development committees that would allow women greater access to justice and productive resources. · Gender based violence - In Burundi, violence against women is both pervasive and reinforced in local traditions and proverbs. Taboo surrounding violence also prevents women from reporting violence in their homes. In order to effectively counter violence, the study also found that it is important to combat violence at multiple levels (individual, household, community, regional and national) through psycho-social support for women and couples to advocacy in communities and national government against violence against women. · Sexuality - Taboo also surrounds subjects related to sexual relations. women and men both felt that it would be important for families to empower women to discuss sex and family planning with her husband. To reinforce more open communication between men and women, staff must gain skills in facilitating sensitive conversations between men and women. CARE must begin by questioning our own beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in relation to sexuality. · Access to information and training - Finally, women also discussed the importance of having access to information and training for their empowerment. Among women, leaders attributed their skills to both formal and non-formal education and training. Reviewing CARE’s work on women’s empowerment, the studies found that while projects have actively sought to build women’s skills and knowledge to excel, as well as helped them gain social capital through work with mobilizing groups and training men on women’s issues, CARE’s work in Burundi has not placed enough emphasis on changing the traditional gendered structures that perpetuate women’s disempowerment. Across responses, What were the key lessons about indicators for women’s empowerment that came out of this research? Beyond the indicators themselves, project teams reported a number of key lessons about indicators from the research and reflection process: 1. Diversity of indicators: Women are diverse. They have different definitions for empowerment, often tied to their stations in life and how society views or treats them as a result of these characteristics (by ethnicity, class/wealth, age, etc). Furthermore, within Burundi, region also plays an important role in defining what empowerment looks like in communities. For example, in the plains of Burundi, polygamy is much more common as compared to people living in the hills. As a result, gender/power relations tied to polygamy play a more prevalent role in women’s lives within the plains and influence their views of empowerment. 2. Importance of Incorporating Women’s Views: Furthermore, teams expressed that one of the most important aspect for their own learning came out of their conversations with women about their own definitions of empowerment. CARE Burundi’s research on WE produced new characteristics of empowerment that surprised staff. Staff had not realized, for example, the significance of proper and clean clothing for women as a characteristic of empowerment. Also, they did not know how important gaining respect from others was for women’s own sense of empowerment until engaging women in conversations about empowerment and how women would define it. 3. Dynamic-ness of indicators: Many staff also commented on how women’s dreams of empowerment change over time. Particularly with the changes linked to program interventions, women’s views of empowerment will necessarily change. While during baseline studies, women may describe the ability to attend community level meetings as a measure of empowerment, perhaps by mid-term they gain a new understanding of empowerment as their aspirations change and women may describe the ability to speak in community meetings or holding a position in local government as examples of empowerment. In some cases, indicators for empowerment developed in program design may no longer be pertinent to women’s lives as projects progress. To capture the dynamism of empowerment, CARE conducts focus groups of women on the definition of women’s empowerment. CARE then develops a baseline questionnaire, based on women’s responses. Each indicator question offers a spectrum of responses to illustrate different levels of empowerment. For example, participation in decision-making may have a number of responses that range from ‘not able to attend community level meetings’ to ‘attends meetings and actively contributes points of views verbally.’ The same questions with responses are asked again over the course of the project to assess how women’s levels of empowerment have changed in relation to different domains. Analysis of scores helps project and program teams to gauge changes in women’s lives and CARE’s contribution to these changes. 4. Inconsistency of empowerment indicators in women’s lives (private vs. public): The latest phase of SII research also highlighted how women’s levels of empowerment shift from one sphere of life to another. One staff member mentioned that she felt women were much more empowered in their communities than in their households. Researchers from the study were surprised to find women leaders in the community continued to tolerate violence from their husbands in their homes and could not negotiate household management/use of resources with husbands. This highlighted the importance of studying changes in women’s lives in their various roles and relations (public and private) in order to effectively understand their empowerment. What does this mean for CARE’s work? CARE Burundi’s approach toward measuring women’s empowerment has tried to take into account these findings within their work through a number of methods. 5. Development of Women’s Empowerment Indicators: In each project that works with women, CARE Burundi aims to include about 5 ‘universal indicators’ for women’s empowerment, which are still being defined. These indicators will be selected based on the findings from its women’s empowerment indicators research (including baseline studies such as the one cited above) as cross-cutting definitions/characteristics of empowerment that women identified as important. By tracking similar indicators across projects, CARE Burundi hopes to learn more about the dynamics of women’s empowerment across interventions as well as how specific interventions interact with women’s empowerment differently. In addition, based on their own research with women, each project also develops more tailored indicators for women specific to their work and context. 6. Room for Change: The SII highlighted the importance of monitoring the evolution of women’s views on empowerment. In order to remain more closely informed with the community, CARE Burundi has: 1.1. moved their field coordinators to be based in local target communities 1.2. incorporated appreciative inquiry (dialogues valorisants) with local communities as part of their daily work. From daily inquiries and interaction with women and community members, field coordinators learn about changes in women’s lives as well as in their dreams/aspirations. Each month, project teams meet to discuss progress and also identify patterns or important information arising from appreciative inquiry. From these meetings, project teams draft monthly reports on their work. During monitoring and evaluation, teams revisit indicators for women’s empowerment in light of monthly reports (and inquiries with communities) and adjust indicators as necessary. While normally CARE can adapt indicators following baseline studies, only one project has been able to revise indicators after a mid-term review. Remaining responsive to communities in how CARE views empowerment provides a number challenges. While staff receive an orientation on appreciative inquiry, not all staff fully understand how to (or simply fail to) conduct appreciative inquiries. Furthermore, while CARE has collected a multitude of women’s stories through appreciative inquiry, they have not been sufficiently collected or mined to deepen broader organizational learning about women’s lives and empowerment. Finally, beyond internal challenges CARE faces in taking up knowledge from the community through the dialogues, donors may also not be receptive to the changes involved in adjusting indicators for empowerment with the shifting realities around women’s lives. 7. Continued Research on Women’s Empowerment: In order to better understand women’s empowerment, CARE Burundi has plans to commit to further learning on women’s empowerment and some respondents discussed the need to continue to evolve CARE Burundi’s understanding of women’s empowerment. To challenge staff to reflect on empowerment, CARE Burundi has begun to hold workshops for staff using the Social Analysis for Action (SAA) guide to help staff identify their own values, biases and blind-spots in regard to reflect more on sensitive issues like sexual and reproductive health and gender. Currently, the women’s empowerment program team is researching a number of gender-related initiatives as well. Namely, the team is exploring methods in engaging men for women’s empowerment and also the dynamics surrounding legalized marriage. At present, some groups and staff promote legalized marriage as an important aspect of women’s empowerment. However, the team sees the need to research the relationship more closely to understand how legal/non-formal marriages affect women’s empowerment/well-being as well as that of their children. 8. Preparing and Supporting Staff: In addition to supporting staff to engage in sensitive and productive discussions on issues of sexual/reproductive health and gender (which has been initiated through the SAA), many respondents expressed the need to support staff to take on more reflective and analytical roles in their work. For example, staff mentioned the need for trainings on analysis skills to be able to draw key lessons and patterns out of their observations and interactions with women and communities. In addition to training needs, staff also saw time as a key barrier against developing and using indicators that are pertinent to women’s empowerment and that adapt to changing definitions of empowerment. Furthermore, many people also mentioned the importance of debating traditional practices and values in terms of human rights (i.e. practice of dowry/polygamy, value of large families, male traditional roles in the household, domestic violence) among staff. In order to promote and understand women’s empowerment, staff must confront and understand their own values and biases. Further Resources: Rivuzimana, A. (2007). Les indicateurs d’empowerment des femmes au nord du Burundi. UMWIZERO Team, CARE International in Burundi. Iredale, J. (2007). Draft report on the analysis of the Study on Empowerment, UMWIZERO project. CARE International in Burundi. Ntabahungu, J. (2007). Rapport de la définition de l’empowerment dans le contexte local réalisé dans les communes de Gihanga, Mpanda, Mutimbuzi, Makebuko et Giheta, pour le programme Kirumara. Kirumara Team CARE International in Burundi. Iredale, J. and Ntacobakimvuna, D. (2009). Le travail de CARE Burundi sur l’empowerment des femmes – une réflexion. Program Learning and Quality Team, CARE International in Burundi.