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International Women’s Day webinar showcases research on women’s rights, participation

From the impacts of COVID-19 on women to groundbreaking research on cash transfers, gender-based violence, and women’s political participation, a Duke Center for International Development (DCID) webinar held on Thursday, March 3, 2022, brought to light critical issues in women’s rights and international development.

Four leading experts from Oxfam, World Bank, Harvard University, and the University of California, Berkeley presented their latest research at, “Amplifying Women’s Voices: The State of Research on Women’s Empowerment.” Moderated by Kate Vyborny, associate director of Duke University’s DevLab and instructor in DCID’s Master of International Development Policy program, the panel highlighted research on women’s political and economic participation as well as new research areas and approaches.

Panelists included:

  • Jan E. Cooper, research associate in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Diya Dutta, social development research consultant, Oxfam
  • Jacobus de Hoop, senior economist, World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice, co-leader of the Gender Innovation Lab for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Susan D. Hyde, co-author of Metaketa project and professor and Department of Political Science chair, co-director, Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley

DCID Director Eddy Malesky welcomed participants at the start of the event. “In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, we hope that this event will provide a more nuanced view of women’s rights and opportunities in both political and economic spaces that will open the door for more dialogue on women’s issues.” Vyborny then guided panelists through the program that began with a presentation by Jan Cooper, who studies incentives and cash transfer programs.

Cooper shared the results of experiments in Tanzania that used cash transfers as an incentive to reduce HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “We looked at a sample of about a thousand women and measured their relationship power. Then, we looked at their incidences of decision-making power… Among women with low relationship power, the conditional cash transfer didn’t have any difference. However, we can see that among women with high relationship power, those who are eligible for the high value cash transfer were able to reduce their risk and their incidence of STIs after one year.”

Cooper then began to explore better methods for measuring a woman’s agency, or her ability to make decisions in different contexts. She conducted another study involving in-depth interviews with 209 women in Haryana, India. “We developed a new approach to measure agency, which includes both quantitative data and quantitative close-ended questions…This approach helps develop a new method that can be replicated in other settings and potentially for other constructs,” said Cooper.

In the second panel presentation titled, “Participation Beyond the Ballot Box: Women’s Action Committees and Collection Action,” Susan Hyde detailed an ongoing Metaketa study funded by Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) that explores women’s non-electoral participation. A team of 27 researchers, led by Hyde and DCID’s Director Eddy Maleksy, is coordinating five field experiments in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam aimed at mobilizing groups of women in various forms of non-electoral political participation.

“We started this project thinking about a desire for more collective action mobilization by women,” said Hyde.  “The motivating question was whether women’s collective action can be facilitated by increasing three things that are jointly necessary … to mobilize women to take collective action within their communities.”

The Metaketa team is investigating if women’s collective action can be facilitated by increasing a sense of group-based identification, increasing the sense of group-based injustices and increasing collective efficacy. She pointed out that the goal is to see whether the three things will “together, not independently, increase the chances that women will be willing to take collective action and demand more local services that benefit them as a group.”

Diya Dutta then presented on risk factors for gender-based violence, a study that documents the incidence of domestic and workplace violence among Indian female agricultural workers and the factors that put these women at risk. As part of the Oxfam-funded study, Dutta and fellow researcher Isadora Frankenthal examined multiple years of household data on domestic violence, education, occupation, and other socio-demographic variables as well as case studies on working conditions for female tea plantation workers.

Dutta said, “We looked at sexual violence in the workplace, in this case the tea plantations in Assam, India, and we looked at domestic violence on the same female workers who live on these tea estates where the personal and professional spaces are blurred.”

According to Dutta, “The quantitative data shows strong positive correlations between domestic violence and family history of domestic violence and whether or not the partner drinks alcohol… There were also strong negative correlations between domestic violence and respondents’ education, age and household wealth. Respondents who work in the family are 5% less likely to report being victims of domestic violence. Also, temporary workers fair worse than permanent ones, and are paid lower wages.”

For the final presentation, “Uneven Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean: Are Women Being Left Behind?” Jacobus de Hoop detailed the findings of a wide-scale phone survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank that measured the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on female labor force participation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Well into the pandemic in June 2021, when many countries had started their economic recovery, declines in employment were much more pronounced for women than for men,” said de Hoop. “Some of the most pronounced increases in the gender gap are visible in Central American countries, including Honduras and Nicaragua, but they’re also pronounced gender gaps, for instance in Bolivia and in some of the countries in the Caribbean, such as Antigua and Barbuda.”

De Hoop also noted that “Women took on a larger share of the additional childcare burden and a larger share of the additional education burden than men did…It’s vital to address this shift in caregiving towards women and to make sure that provision of quality childcare is available and can be used by many.” He added that sectors that employed more women pre-pandemic such as domestic services and restaurants and tourism also continue to experience employment losses.


Throughout the year, the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), a unit within Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, hosts programs that encourage dialogue on critical policy issues. DCID offers a Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) graduate degree; intensive international Executive Education programs for senior development managers; and short- and long-term advising in public finance and development management. DCID also hosts the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center and maintains close collaborations with the World Bank, USAID and other international and bilateral agencies as well as with consulting firms, foundations, universities, NGOs and national governments.

By April L. Raphiou