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Women's autonomy and experience of violence in six African countries

Kim Deslandes, Université de Montréal
Lauren Gaydosh, Princeton University

There is a rich history of the study of women’s autonomy in the field of demography, particularly regarding its role in fertility outcomes. Women’s autonomy is associated with parity, contraceptive use, and in more recent work, with children’s health outcomes and health services utilization. However, despite its importance and popularity there is surprisingly little consensus on how to measure women’s autonomy. Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, this study problematizes our current measurement of women’s autonomy through an examination of the relationship between measured autonomy and experiences of violence. We find that the direction and significance of the influence of autonomy, specifically labor force participation and control over financial decision-making, is inconsistent across countries. Our findings have important implications for the measurement and study of women’s autonomy.

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Presented in Session 121: Structural violence