Understanding Women’s Well-being Using The Capabilities Approach

Understanding Women’s Well-being Using The Capabilities Approach
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The present study aims to understand how women’s well-being is contoured by developmental projects that have women as the main beneficiaries. The study focuses on the women participants of the Integrated Livelihoods Support Project (ILSP), an IFAD project being implemented in Uttarakhand, India. The analytical paradigm is the capability approach, drawing from Amartya Sen’s work. The objective is to understand how development projects facilitate women’s well-being; by analysing women’s functionings, capabilities, agency, and thus their freedom. The Measuring Empowerment (ME) Framework guided the research design. Understanding of agency is further enhanced by construction of the Relative Autonomy Index (RAI). Primary data was collected during 3 month-long fieldwork in 3 villages (2 project and 1 control village). Across domains, the assessment of well-being from observing functionings alone was highlighted as erroneous, as abilities and opportunities were required to explain the entire experience. Development projects run the risk of reinforcing women’s traditionally defined dependence when bypassing the structural difficulties encountered by women as development actors holding multiple roles and identities. Expansion of social opportunities through project activities was deemed particularly valuable by women. An opportunity to refine processes in development projects is discussed.