Els Lecoutere and Lan Chu
Discussion paper 2021.06

This study assesses the impact of an intervention that challenges gender relations by introducing a more participatory way of intrahousehold decision making on women’s empowerment in monogamous agricultural households in Tanzania. Participatory intrahousehold decision making is introduced through (i) awareness raising couple seminars in which couples go through a self-assessment and group discussion about their intrahousehold division of roles and resources; and through (ii) a subsequent intensive coaching package of activities in which couples are coached by gender officers on how to implement participatory decision making in their household. The study adopts a mixed methods approach, which consists of (i) a quantitative impact assessment of the introduction of participatory intrahousehold decision making on different domains of women’s empowerment, through respectively the couple seminars and randomly encouraged intensive coaching, and (ii) a qualitative component to understand how the changes caused by the interventions fit into women’s own valued aspects and processes of empowerment, by which the study embraces the inherently subjective dimensions of empowerment. The study shows that awareness-raising couple seminars catalysed women’s access to livestock, but not their access to personal income while this is highly valued by women for independently taking minor expenditure decisions for their household’s wellbeing. In line with women’s priorities, intensive coaching in participatory intrahousehold decision making increased women’s control over and accuracy of information about household income earned with coffee. Both couple seminars and intensive coaching increased women’s involvement in strategic farm decisions, which fits women’s wish for effective decision-making power in this domain. Couple seminars contributed to a fairer division of productive and reproductive labour among spouses, which is advantageous to women, even if this was not a key priority from women’s perspective.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 702964. The interventions were funded by the Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS). The Institute of Development Policy partly sponsored time for writing this article.We would like to express our gratitude to Fortunate Paska, Nora Fedish, Julius Liute, Ezekiel Kapange, Bertha Elias and Rehema, the gender resource persons and gender officers at HRNS for their efforts in the field and valuable feedback. We would like to thank Webster Miyanda, Ghislaine Bongers, Stefan Cognigni, and Jorge Tiemeier from HRNS management. We are grateful for all field research assistants’ dedication and great efforts to collect the data. Finally, we would like to thank the women and men farmers who collaborated in this research. 

Ethics approval 

This study was granted ethical clearance by the Ethics Committee for the Social Sciences and Humanities of the University of Antwerp (SHW_15_41) and by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (2017-236-NA-2017-249). 

Data statement 

The quantitative questionnaires, dataset, Stata code, and qualitative interview guide and transcripts are accessible at DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17632/hmh94r2smc.1