Survey-based Women’s Empowerment (SWPER) Index

The Survey-based Women’s Empowerment (SWPER) Index is a country-level 15-item measure of women’s empowerment, based on items taken from 34 African nations’ Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Three dimensions of empowerment are captured by the measure: attitudes toward intimate partner violence; women’s social independence (education and employment); and household decision making power.


Geographies Tested: Benin,Burkina Faso,Burundi,Cameroon,Comoros,Democratic Republic of the Congo,Cote d'Ivoire,Egypt,Ethiopia,Gabon,Ghana,Guinea,Kenya,Lesotho,Liberia,Madagascar,Malawi,Mali,Morocco,Mozambique,Namibia,Niger,Nigeria,Rwanda,Sao Tome and Principe,Senegal,Sierra Leone,Swaziland,Tanzania,The Gambia,Togo,Uganda,Zambia,Zimbabwe

Populations Included: Female

Age Range:


1. Beating justified if wife goes out without telling husband
2. Beating justified if wife neglects the children
3. Beating justified if wife argues with husband
4. Beating justified if wife refuses to have sex with husband
5. Beating justified if wife burns the food

Response Options:
Justified - -1
Don’t know - 0
Not justified - 1

6. Frequency of reading newspaper or magazine

Response Options:
Not at all - 0
Less than once a week - 1
At least once a week - 2

7. Respondent worked in past 12 months

Response Options:
No - 1
In the past year - 1
Have a job, but on leave past 7 days - 2
Currently working - 2

8. Woman’s education in completed years of schooling
9. Education difference: woman’s minus husband’s completed years of schooling
10. Age difference: woman’s age minus husband’s age
11. Age at first cohabitation
12. Age of woman at first birth (input for women who have not had a child)

Response Options:

13. Who usually decides on respondent’s health care
14. Who usually decides on large household purchases
15. Who usually decides on visits to family or relatives

Response Options:
Husband or other alone - -1
Joint - 0
Respondent alone - 1

Scoring Procedures

Higher values indicate greater empowerment

Original Citation

Ewerling, F., Lynch, J. W., Victora, C. G., van Eerdewijk, A., Tyszler, M., & Barros, A. J. (2017). The SWPER index for women's empowerment in Africa: development and validation of an index based on survey data. The Lancet Global Health, 5(9), e916-e923.

Psychometric Score

Ease of Use Score

Scoring breakdown

Formative Research

Qualitative Research

Existing Literature/Theoretical Framework

Field Expert Input

Cognitive Interviews / Pilot Testing








Criterion (gold-standard)



Ease of Use


Scoring Clarity


Join the EMERGE Community

to get the latest updates on new measures and guidance for survey researchers