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SA072410_Measuring_Agency_Shireen_Jejeebhoy - SPECIAL...

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SPECIAL ARTICLE july 24, 2010 vol xlv no 30 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 56 This project was supported by a grant to the Population Council from the MacArthur Foundation. The support of the Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. Shireen Jejeebhoy ( [email protected] ) and Rajib Acharya ( [email protected] ) are with the Population Council, New Delhi, Mallika Alexander ( [email protected] ) is with the National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, Laila Garda ( laila. [email protected] ) is consultant, KEM Hospital Research Centre, Pune and Savita Kanade ( [email protected] ) with the Clinical Trial Unit, B J Medical College, Pune. Measuring Agency among Unmarried Young Women and Men Shireen Jejeebhoy, Rajib Acharya, Mallika Alexander, Laila Garda, Savita Kanade In order to draw out and measure dimensions of agency (the capacity to make choices through the acquisition of a sense of self and a sense of personal competence) among unmarried young women and men, a survey was undertaken among young people in rural and urban slum settings in Pune. It looked at three key dimensions – mobility, decision-making and sense of self-worth. The findings show that agency was clearly constrained among youth in this setting, irrespective of gender and the rural-urban divide. Second, young women had significantly lower levels of agency than young men on mobility and decision-making, but appeared to have a significantly higher sense of self- worth. Third, the rural-urban differences were negligible and considerably narrower than gender differences. Fourth, older respondents were progressively more likely to report agency on all three dimensions. Age and education were consistently and positively associated with almost every measure of agency for both young women and men. T he key attributes of a successful transition to adulthood include, aside from health and human capital, a sense of agency. Agency has been defined as the capacity to make choices through the acquisition of a sense of self and a sense of personal competence ( NRC and Institute of Medicine 2005); and as the ability to make strategic life choices (Kabeer 2001), to affect well-being and to exert influence over life matters (Mensch 2006). What is available, moreover, from the literature on empowerment among adult women would suggest that central elements of the capacity to make choices include young people’s decision-making capacity, freedom of movement, a sense of self- worth and access to resources (Malhotra, Schuler and Boender 2002). Many have argued moreover that agency is key in influ- encing young people’s sexual and reproductive lives – in enabling young women to have a say in the timing of marriage and choice of partner, to forge equitable relationships with partners, to make health-related decisions, to access health services and to exercise informed choices about whether and when to engage in sexual relations and contraception for example (Assaad and Bruce 1997; Jejeebhoy and Halli 2005). Unfortunately, few studies have ex-
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