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Strategic Impact Inquiries > Pages > Women's Empowerment SII Framework  

CARE's Framework for Understanding Women's Empowerment
Women's Empowerment SII Framework

 Why Conceptual Frameworks Matter

There are as many pathways of women's empowerment as there are women. However, if CARE is to be truly accountable for its contributions to women's empowerment, we must be explicit about our own definition of the concept, and ideas about how it can be measured. The Women's Empowerment SII Framework is CARE's effort to make our ideas about women's empowerment clear, so that others may understand, challenge, and engage them.
For more on the Framework and measurement issues, check the Methodology section of this site. For further discussion on characteristics of power and women's empowerment, please visit the Women's Empowerment Illustration page of this site and see the SII Women's Empowerment Discussion Brief (also in Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and French).

 CARE's Women's Empowerment Framework

At CARE, we view women’s empowerment through the lens of poor women’s struggles to achieve their full and equal human rights. In these struggles, women strive to balance practical, daily, individual achievements with strategic, collective, long-term work to challenge biased social rules and institutions.
Therefore, CARE defines women’s empowerment as the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights – the interplay of changes in:
  • Agency: her own aspirations and capabilities,
  • Structure: the environment that surrounds and conditions her choices,
  • Relations: the power relations through which she negotiates her path.

Women’s empowerment is a process of social change, and we only capture part of its richness when we assess the process of empowerment in terms of its outcomes. Furthermore, the nature of gender power relations, and the triggers for empowerment, differ from culture to culture and context to context. No standard list of impact indicators can be relevant in all places and times, for all kinds of women. For that reason, the SII requires each research team to build a process for exploring gender power relations in context, with the affected stakeholders - both to ground-proof relevant indicators, and to "fill in the spaces" with insight about how changes come about, and what role, if any, CARE's work has played.

However, we need a place to start, and that is what the SII’s global women's empowerment framework tries to offer. It focuses on concrete outcomes for which we can hold ourselves accountable, and organizes the diversity of women’s realities into a shared framework. In each context, we can start to focus our work by linking women’s own definitions and priorities for empowerment to 23 key dimensions of social change which have been shown to be widely relevant to women’s empowerment across many studies and contexts.



1. Self-Image; self-esteem
11. Marriage and kinship rules, norms and processes
19. Consciousness of self and others as interdependent
2. Legal and rights awareness
12. Laws and practices of citizenship
20. Negotiation , accommodation habits
3. Information and skills
13. Information and access to services
21. Alliance and coalition habits
4. Education
14. Access to justice, enforceability of rights
22. Pursuit, acceptance of accountability
5. Employment/control of own labor
15. Market accessibility
23. New social forms: altered relationships and behaviors
6. Mobility in public space
16. Political representation

7. Decision influence in household
17. State budgeting practices

8. Group membership and activism
18. Civil society representation

9. Material assets owned

10. Body health and bodily integrity

As noted above, CARE believes that women's empowerment is more sustainable, and more complete, when it is firmly anchored in inter-related changes across all three of these domains - the empowerment framework challenges us to think outside the "agency" box that development projects so often address.

 SII Framework Resources

SII Women's Empowerment Global Research Framework (with annexes) 2006Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Martinez, Elisa2006English
SII Women's Empowerment Global Research Framework (with annexes) (Spanish) 2006Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Martinez, Elisa2006Spanish
SII Women's Empowerment and HIV Global Concept Note 2008Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Glenzer, Kent2008English
SII Women's Empowerment and HIV Research Framework Summary 2009Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Wu, Diana2009English
SII Women's Empowerment and HIV Global Research Design Framework 2007Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Trasi, Reshma 2007English
SII Women's Empowerment and HIV Global Research Framework Appendices (English and French)Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Trasi, Reshma2007English
SII Women's Empowerment Global Summary Report - Standing Together, Reducing Risk 2009Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
CARE Coordinatoring Group and ICRW2009English
Women's Empowerment Overview Brief 2009Use SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Wu, Diana2009English
SII Comprenant Empowerment des femmesUse SHIFT+ENTER to open the menu (new window).
Wu, Diana2009French

 Content Editor Web Part

 Domains of Change


Measuring enduring change in any dimension of empowerment requires evidence of agency, structural and relational change:
If political representation is one key dimension of women’s empowerment in Liberia, three critical indicators for this dimension might assess: how diverse women are exercising voice in public processes (agency), how women are building coalitions to advance collective agendas (relations), and whether laws and policies reflect the incorporation of those agendas (structure).

So in using the SII's Women's Empowerment Framework, we must broaden our lens on empowerment in two ways:
  • assess empowerment through a mix of dimensions that cut across these three domains (a relevant combination of A-S-R);
  • explore each dimension through a mix of indicators that reflect changes in agency, structure and relations. 
For further discussion on the dimensions of women's empowerment and power, please see the Illustation on Women's Empowerment, a learning tool.

 Additional Resources

External Research - Of course, CARE’s Women’s Empowerment Framework is just one model, which draws on a wide range of outside scholarship and practice. See some of the key resources that influenced its development, for a sense of the diverse and competing ideas out there.