The Women’s Reproductive Empowerment Project explores how women’s empowerment affects their ability to control reproductive outcomes, including using contraception or having an abortion. The most common definitions of women’s empowerment include a process in which women’s ability to make strategic life choices is expanded. We are most interested in women’s agency in the life choices that relate to whether and when to have a child.
ANSIRH’s work on this project involves three primary components: a literature review, analyses evaluating existing measures of women’s empowerment, and the development of a validated measure of reproductive empowerment.
The review of the literature is a collaborative project involving participation from UCGHI Women’s Health and Empowerment Center of Expertise faculty. The review will synthesize empirical research that has examined the associations between women’s empowerment and outcomes related to contraception and fertility. It also includes studies that examine women’s empowerment as an outcome itself as well as any interventions that have attempted to impact contraceptive use or fertility by expanding women’s empowerment.
We are also evaluating currently available measures of women’s empowerment, including a household decision-making index and the Pulerwitz Sexual Relationship Power Scale as measures of women’s empowerment to identify whether they predict contraceptive use in a variety of settings in the United States and globally.
There is a great need for a measure of women’s reproductive empowerment—that is, their ability and freedom to make reproductive decisions. Currently available measures are general and focus on relationship power generally. They do not specifically assess power in matters related to reproduction. ANSIRH is in the process of developing a validated measure of women’s empowerment.
This theory-based, validated instrument will be available to reproductive health researchers who could incorporate it into surveys and interview assessments in any research context. An improvement over currently available assessments, the new tool will be applicable to women in any type of sexual relationship (cohabitating or not) and to women living in a variety of gender equity contexts worldwide. It will also capture influence of other people other than the sexual partner. To the extent possible, the instrument will be brief so that it can be easily inserted into Demographic and Health Surveys and other standardized questionnaires.
In November, 2010, Dr. Upadhyay presented ongoing research at the Inaugural University of California Global Health Day.