Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

I would like to build on Peter Mbuchi's comments, which focus on the need to work with both men and women in order to attain gender transformative impacts. My colleague, Talip Kilic, and I have been looking at the impacts of increasing both women's empowerment per se, and of cooperation within the household -- through joint decision-making -- in rural Malawi. We found that greater women's empowerment can lead to increased household income per capita, but that collective action led to much larger increases in household income and consumption per capita as well. Our full results can be found in our working paper here: Looking at the literature, we found very little empirical research on how cooperation within the household impacts key welfare outcomes for household members for rural households in developing countries, in fact, we found just one article that found a positive impact of couple's training on the ability of spouse's to reach cooperative outcomes in experimental games settings (Lecoutere and Jassogne, 2016). However, there is a larger literature on family-run businesses in developed countries; this literature often highlights the importance of mechanisms that promote "shared visions" amongst family members in increasing profitability -- a similar argument made by Peter Mbuchi in his comments.

Interestingly, a paper comparing women's empowerment across six countries by Njuki et al. ( finds that though there is absolutely room for increasing women's empowerment in Malawi, women in Malawi tend to be more empowered than their counterparts in all five of the other countries included in that study. This raises the question of whether promoting cooperation in the household is more likely to generate positive results when women's empowerment is also "high enough", or whether promoting cooperation can itself lead to greater women's empowerment.

We expect that household welfare outcomes for all members to be best when there is both women's empowerment per se as well as cooperation amongst family members. It seems like a very good time to include consideration of cooperation within the household in addition to women's empowerment. And, because empirical evidence is scarce, learning from current project approaches -- such as the Family Action Learning System -- as well as generating more evidence from empirical research could lead to real changes in the way we structure projects and policies to address both women as individuals and women as family members, in order to reach transformational changes that improve everyone's welfare.