Evidence of women's empowerment in India:: A study of socio-spatial disparities

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Abstract

Various national and international communities have addressed women's issues and taken various efforts to empower them so as to enhance their social and health status and involve them in developmental activities. The Indian DHS survey (National Family Health Survey, 1998-1999) provides an opportunity to study women's empowerment in India. The survey collected information on several dimensions of women's empowerment from 90,303 ever-married women (ages 15-49), from all the states of India. Utilizing these data sets, four indices - household autonomy index, mobility index, attitude towards gender index and attitude towards domestic violence index - are constructed to measure the different dimensions of empowerment. Using these indices, the spatial and socio-economic and cultural disparities that exist within India are analyzed. Finally, an attempt is made to identify some important determinants for women's empowerment using multiple logistic regression analysis. The results show that at the national level, 43% of the women have high household autonomy; 23% of the women have high freedom to move outside their home; 40% of the women have no gender preference attitude; and only 43% of the women defy domestic violence. But there are significant divergences in these indices of women's empowerment across the different states and socio-economic and cultural settings within India. Women's educational levels emerged as an important predictor for all the four dimensions of women's empowerment. Additionally, media exposure and age have emerged as the important predictors for some dimensions of woman's empowerment.

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