Empowerment and Women Empowerment

What is Empowerment?

Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities. This enables them to represent their interests responsibly and self-determined, acting under their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. Empowerment as action refers both to the operation of self-empowerment and to the professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence and recognise and use their resources. (Wikipedia)

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The term empowerment originates from American community psychology and is associated with the social scientist Julian Rappaport (1981). However, the roots of empowerment theory extend further into history and are linked to Marxist sociological theory. These sociological ideas have continued to be developed and refined through Neo-Marxist Theory (also known as Critical Theory). 


In social work, empowerment forms a practical approach to resource-oriented intervention. In the field of citizenship education and democratic education, empowerment is seen as a tool to increase the citizen's responsibility. Empowerment is a critical concept in the discourse on promoting civic engagement. Empowerment as a concept, characterised by a move away from a deficit-oriented towards a more strength-oriented perception, can increasingly be found in management concepts and continuing education and self-help areas.

The term empowerment has different meanings in socio-cultural and political contexts and does not translate easily into all languages. Exploring local terms associated with empowerment worldwide always leads to a lively discussion. These terms include self-strength, control, self-power, self-reliance, own choice, a life of dignity by one's values, being capable of fighting for one's rights, independence, own decision making, being free, awakening, and capability—to mention only a few. These definitions are embedded in local values and belief systems.

Read: Community Empowerment in Social Work

Empowerment is of intrinsic value; it also has instrumental value. Empowerment is relevant at the individual and collective level and can be economic, social, or political. The term can characterise relations within households or between poor people and other actors globally. There are significant gender differences in empowerment's causes, forms, and consequences of dis-empowerment. Hence, there are many possible definitions of empowerment, including rights-based definitions.


In its broadest sense, empowerment is the expansion of freedom of choice and action. It means increasing one's authority and control over the resources and decisions that affect one's life. As people exercise natural selection, they gain increased control over their lives. Poor people's options are minimal, both by their lack of assets and their powerlessness to negotiate better terms for themselves with a range of formal and informal institutions. Since powerlessness is embedded like institutional relations, in the context of poverty reduction, an institutional definition of empowerment is appropriate.

Empowerment is a construct shared by many disciplines and areas: community development, psychology, education, economics, studies of social movements and organisations. Recent literature reviews of articles indicating a focus on empowerment across several scholarly and practical disciplines have demonstrated no clear definition of the concept. Zimmerman (1984) has stated that asserting a single definition of empowerment may attempt to achieve it formulaic or prescription-like, contradicting the very concept of empowerment. However, for health promotion practitioners, making empowerment operational in health promotion contexts is crucial.

Empowerment, in its most general sense, refers to the ability of people to gain understanding and control over personal, social, economic and political forces to take action to improve their life situations (Israel et al., 1994). It is the process by which individuals and communities are enabled to take power and act effectively in gaining greater control, efficacy, and social justice in changing their lives and their environment (Solomon, 1976; Rappaport, 1981, 1985; Minkler, 1992; Fawcett et al., 1994; Israel et al., 1994). Central to the empowerment process are actions that build individual and collective assets and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organisational and institutional context that govern the use of these assets. 

According to Rappaport, empowerment is a construct that links individual strengths and competencies, natural helping systems, and proactive behaviours to social policy and social change (Rappaport, 1981, 1984). He has noted that it is easy to define empowerment by its absence but challenging to explain in action as it takes on different forms in different people and contexts.


Czuba (1999) suggests that three components of empowerment definition are essential to understanding the concept: empowerment is multi-dimensional, social, and a process. It is multi-dimensional in that it occurs within sociological, psychological, economic, and other dimensions. Empowerment also occurs at various levels, such as individual, group, and community. Empowerment is a social process since it occurs in relationships with others, and it is a process along the continuum. Other aspects of empowerment may vary according to the specific context and people involved, but these three remain constant. How empowerment is understood also arise among perspectives and context.


Meaning of Power

The idea of "power" is at the root of empowerment. Power can be understood as operating in several different ways:

1. Power over This power involves an either/or relationship of domination/subordination. Ultimately, it is based on socially sanctioned threats of violence and intimidation, it requires constant vigilance to maintain, and it invites active and passive resistance;

2. Power to This power relates to having decision-making authority, ability to solve problems and can be creative and enabling;

3. Power with: This power involves people organising with a common purpose or common understanding to achieve collective goals;

4. Power within: This power refers to self-confidence, self-awareness and assertiveness. It relates to how individuals can recognise through analysing experience how power operates in their lives and gain the confidence to act to influence and change this. (Williams et al., 1994).


3 Elements of Empowerment

People are empowered to accomplish their jobs successfully in favourable work settings. According to the progress principle, a novel theory of work motivation, people are more satisfied at work when they believe they are making steady progress toward meaningful goals. Managers can therefore enhance happy feelings at work by assisting employees in achieving their goals. Three critical components of empowerment are as follows:


The first step toward employee empowerment is to establish clear goals and expectations. Individuals can only advance at work if they clearly understand the outcomes they are expected to produce. With empowerment, a manager's responsibility changes from closely monitoring what employees do to holding them accountable for results. This requires managers to establish desired outcomes precisely and communicate them frequently to ensure everyone understands their roles.


The second stage in empowering others is to assist them by giving them the resources necessary to succeed and remove any impediments to advancement. By meeting their employees' needs, managers empower their employees. This entails not just providing the required time, resources, and support but also actively striving to eliminate barriers to achievement.


Finally, empowering people entails providing them with the independence necessary to perform their jobs. Once employees understand their responsibilities and have the essential support, the best thing a manager can do is to get out of their way. Trusting employees to complete their work as they see fit is critical for fostering happy work environments.


Women Empowerment

Women's empowerment can be defined as promoting women's self-esteem, ability to make their own decisions, and right to influence social change for themselves and others. It is closely related to female empowerment, a fundamental human right that is also critical to achieving a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Female empowerment is frequently associated in Western countries with specific historical phases of the women's rights movement. This movement is typically divided into three waves, with the first beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when suffrage was a key feature. The sexual revolution and the role of women in society were part of the 1960s' second wave. Third-wave feminism is commonly regarded as having begun in the 1990s.

Women's empowerment and promoting women's rights have emerged as part of a significant global movement breaking new ground in recent years. Days such as International Women's Empowerment Day are also gaining popularity. Nonetheless, despite considerable progress, women and girls face discrimination and violence worldwide.

Women's empowerment (or female empowerment) may be defined in several ways, including accepting women's viewpoints or making an effort to seek them, raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy, and training. Women's empowerment equips and allows women to make life-determining decisions through the different problems in society. They may have the opportunity to redefine gender roles or other such roles, which in turn may allow them more freedom to pursue desired goals. (Wikipedia)

Women's empowerment has become a significant topic of discussion in development and economics. Economic empowerment allows women to control and benefit from resources, assets, and income. It also aids the ability to manage risk and improve women's wellbeing. It can result in approaches to support trivialised genders in a particular political or social context. While often interchangeably used, the more comprehensive concept of gender empowerment concerns people of any gender, stressing the distinction between biological and gender as a role. Women empowerment help boost women's status through literacy, education, training, and awareness creation. Furthermore, women's empowerment refers to women's ability to make strategic life choices that had been previously denied them.


7 Principles of Women's Empowerment

Created in a collaboration between the UN Global Compact and UN Women, the Women's Empowerment Principles are used to empower women in the marketplace, workplace and community. The seven principles are:

Principle 1: Create high-level corporate leadership for gender equality

Principle 2: Treat all people fairly at work, respecting and supporting non-discrimination and human rights

Principle 3: Ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of all workers, whether male or female

Principle 4: Promote education, training and professional development for women

Principle 5: Implement supply chain, marketing practices and enterprise development that empower women

Principle 6: Champion equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Principle 7: Measure and report publicly on progress to create gender equality


Importance of Women Empowerment

Empowerment is not something that happens overnight. The effects of empowerment training take time to manifest. It is critical to believe that employees want to do a good job. Working with individuals to establish professional goals will help the empowerment process. People will usually set higher goals for themselves than management will. To be empowered, management must take a proactive approach to solicit suggestions and ideas. Workers have a wealth of time-management and cost-cutting ideas. Most people are willing to share their observations and ideas if they feel safe doing so. Management must foster an environment where employees are encouraged to use their own common sense and judgment.

Women are still discriminated against in some societies based on their gender. They don't have the same rights as men. Women are still paid less and are expected to cook and clean. Women are still held to strict standards by their culture and families. Women are unable to go out at night or with men. Some Cambodian women are influenced by their fathers or husbands. They still did not allow women to work or study away from home because they believed women were weaker than men and that some husbands were jealous.

Furthermore, some Cambodian women marry at a young age, and some are forced to marry by their parents. Women's empowerment is desperately needed in today's societies. It is critical for women's self-esteem as well as for communities.

Giving women the right to vote is a form of empowerment. Women have the right to participate equally in education, society, the economy, and politics. Women can join the community because they have the freedom to choose their religion, language, work, and other activities. Women have the same access to higher education as men. They can pursue a high level of education, complete their classes, learn a skill, and study whatever they want. Women can also participate in politics because they have the right to vote and participate in some political activities.

Women's empowerment is a component of encouraging women to feel strong by telling them that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Women can work outside the home and make their own decisions. Women are not reliant on men. They can support their families by working to the best of their abilities. Some women are hesitant to work in difficult conditions or in positions of authority because they believe it is not a woman's job.

Because people promote and value women, empowerment helps to reduce domestic violence. Women are not abused by any of the following factors: sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse.

Women can now hold high-level positions in the same way that men do. Some women are promoted to president, leader, commune chief, and other high-level positions. And many women are now participating in society, politically, educationally, and economically.

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