Women's Status and Empowerment (Photo credit: © 2004 Roobon/The Hunger Project-Bangladesh, Courtesy of Photoshare)

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development focused sharp attention on accounting for gender roles, needs, and relations when designing policies and programs that address population, health and nutrition issues. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has also highlighted the need to understand how gender inequalities in power, access, and resources affect the spread of infection.

Which DHS data are related to women's status and empowerment?

The DHS Program data and analysis provide an in-depth look at:

  • the life courses of women and men, including
    • when they first have sex, marry, and have their first child
    • whether they work
    • whether they control income and household decisions
  • gender differentials in education and in children's health and health care
  • women's experience of various forms of gender-based violence.

DHS indicators about women's status and empowerment

All Demographic and Health Surveys include the following women's status and empowerment indicators:

  • Literacy and educational attainment
  • Employment and occupation
  • Control over own earnings (most surveys)
  • Age at first marriage
  • Age at first birth
  • Contraceptive use
  • Spousal age and education differences

Demographic and Health Surveys implemented since 1999-2000 contain information on the following additional women's status and empowerment indicators:

  • Women's participation in household decisions
  • Women's attitudes toward wife-beating by husbands
  • Women's opinions on whether a woman can refuse sex to her husband
  • Hurdles faced by women in accessing health care for themselves

Demographic and Health Surveys for some countries include a module of additional questions on women's status and empowerment the DHS Women's Status Module. Indicators available from the module include:

  • Choice of spouse
  • Natal family support
  • Asset ownership
  • Control over money for different purposes
  • Knowledge and use of micro-credit programs
  • Attitudes about gender roles
  • Freedom of movement
  • Membership in any association
  • Having a bank account


Photo credit: © 2004 Roobon/The Hunger Project-Bangladesh, Courtesy of Photoshare. Reshma Akhter, an 8-year-old from the Rayerbazar slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh, breaks through the ribbon during a race. She is one of 150 students attending the Gana Unnayan Pathshala School established by Hunger Project volunteers Shanti Rebaru & Tajima Majumdar in July 2003. Investing in women and girls is an essential component to economic development and building strong communities. In recognition of this, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh celebrates September 30th every year as National Girl Child Day.