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A review of measures of women’s empowerment and related gender constructs in family planning and maternal health program evaluations in low- and middle-income countries

by on January 10, 2018

A review of measures of women’s empowerment and related gender constructs in family planning and maternal health program evaluations in low- and middle-income countriesBackground: Evidence suggests that gender-integrated interventions, which actively seek to identify and integrate activities that address the role of gender norms and dynamics, improve family planning (FP) and maternal health (MH). To understand the link between the gender components of interventions and FP and MH outcomes, it is critical to examine the gender measures used in evaluations.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of evaluations of gender-integrated FP and MH interventions in low- and middle-income countries. We examine characteristics of the interventions and their evaluations, and summarize women’s empowerment and related gender measures.

Results: Out of 16 evaluation articles, five reported the theoretical or conceptual model that guided the intervention. Twelve described how gender was quantitatively measured and identified 13 women’s empowerment and related gender constructs. Gender scales or indexes were used in five evaluations, three of which noted that their scales had been validated. Less than one third of articles reported examining the effect of gender on FP or MH.

Conclusions: Evaluations of gender-integrated FP and MH interventions do not consistently describe how gender influences FP and MH outcomes or include validated gender measures within their studies. As a result, examining the pathways through which interventions empower women and the manner in which women’s empowerment leads to changes in FP and MH outcomes remains a challenge. Valid measures of commonly reported women’s empowerment and gender constructs, such as gender-equitable attitudes and women’s decision-making power, must be adapted and used within evaluations to examine how empowerment and improvements in gender-related factors can produce positive FP and MH outcomes.

Access the journal article.

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