Abstract: Determinants of Women's Empowerment in India: Evidence From National Family Health Survey (Society for Social Work and Research 15th Annual Conference: Emerging Horizons for Social Work Research)

15162 Determinants of Women's Empowerment in India: Evidence From National Family Health Survey

Saturday, January 15, 2011: 5:30 PM
Meeting Room 5 (Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Ankita Deka, PhD, Assistant Professor, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN
Background and Purpose

Gender inequity in access to basic social services remains an enduring challenge for policy makers in India. While gender related inequities are not unique to India, the complex intersection of gender with other stratification systems such as caste and class makes the Indian case quite complex. Gender inequity in India highlights the classic problem of distribution and control of resources in society. This research study investigates the determinants of women's empowerment in India, and also contextualizes the nature and extent of gender discrimination. This study fills a major gap in the literature on gender inequity in India as it tries to quantify already established theoretical and conceptual ideas related to the gender divide.


Data for this study come from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) which is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted on a representative sample of households throughout India. NFHS collects indicators of population, health and nutrition. Besides providing household level information, data from individual interviews with women aged 15-49 were also part of the survey, which will form the sample for this study. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the socio-demographic composition of the sample. Bivariate analyses were used to show the differences between men and women on various domains of empowerment such as literacy rates, employment, control over financial resources, and access to health care, decision making (household, reproductive behavior). Multiple logistic regression models were used to predict the determinants of women's empowerment in India. Women's empowerment was operationalized under four domains: women's control of financial resources in the family, reproductive and sexual health decision making, women's views on domestic violence, women's physical mobility. Results The results of the study indicate that women are both absolutely and relatively marginalized when compared to men in terms of access to basic social goods and services. A significant proportion of employed women do not have any control of their financial or reproductive decision making. Gender discriminatory practices such as wife-beating and restricting physical mobility of women are still quite prevalent in India. One of the significant findings of the study is that education and employment do not significantly contribute to women's empowerment in India. The other key finding is that traditional gender norms about women's role in the family, status in society remain deeply entrenched in society.


This study contributes to a major gap in International Social Work literature. This research is in specific ways able to quantify the nature and extent of gender discriminatory practices in India. The study demystifies popular projections in mass media of India's burgeoning economy and how it has transformed the economic and social milieu. This study provides a framework for Social Workers in India about how gender discrimination operates and also illuminates the loopholes in policy practice. Social Workers will be able to use this research to advocate for progressive policy legislation as well as be able to design interventions to bring about necessary change.