We consider agency to be the ability to advance goals that one values and has reason to value, and empowerment, as its expansion – in other words, an increasing ability of individuals and of groups to bring about change.
Agency is of intrinsic and instrumental importance to impoverished communities: ‘Greater freedom enhances the ability of people to help themselves, and also to influence the world, and these matters are central to the process of development’ (Sen 1999, p18-19).
A recent study of 60,000 people in 15 countries asked people who had moved out of poverty how they had achieved this. Seventy-seven percent attributed this to their own initiative (Narayan, Pritchett and Kapoor 2009, p20).
Measures of empowerment in different domains of life are urgently needed to support people’s ability to engage in and to shape development processes. For an example of how this can work in practice, see the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, which was developed by OPHI with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The missing dimensions modules have been implemented and integrated into multi-topic household surveys. Read more about how they have been used in projects around the world.
Agencia y empoderamiento en la medición de la pobreza
abridged version in Spanish (translation courtesy of Revista Humanum.)