In 1995, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched the quantitative Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) in its Human Development Report (1999). The GEM has been a feature of this report ever since. In 2004/05, a group of researchers from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia) intended to rely on the GEM to study the experiences of factory women in two of Sri Lanka's Export Processing Zones (EPZs). The experience of this team – at the heart of this chapter – is that the quantitative measures of the GEM, particularly the specific ways in which it causes researchers to conceptualise gender and empowerment, are not adequate to understand the nuanced and complex processes of women's experiences in regards to empowerment. The team's experience caused it to question the relevance and utility of the GEM, and in turn, its sole reliance on a quantitative methodology. As a result, the researchers from Edith Cowan changed their original methodological approach and adopted a stronger qualitative emphasis. In turn, this provided a far more realistic insight into the concepts of gender and empowerment, and indeed the lived experiences of the women it sought to represent.
Hancock, P. (2008), "Chapter 8 The utility of qualitative research: A study of gender empowerment in Sri Lanka", Maginn, P.J., Thompson, S.M. and Tonts, M. (Ed.) Qualitative Urban Analysis: An International Perspective (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 177-195. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1042-3192(07)00207-8
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