refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, racial, educational, gender or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.
The term empowerment covers a vast landscape of meanings, interpretations, definitions and disciplines ranging from psychology and philosophy to the highly commercialized self-help industry and motivational sciences.
Sociological empowerment often addresses members of groups that social discrimination processes have excluded from decision-making processes through - for example - discrimination based on disability, race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Empowerment as a methodology is often associated with feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...
: see consciousness-raising.
"Marginalized" refers to the overt or covert trends within societies whereby those perceived as lacking desirable traits or deviating from the group norms tend to be excluded by wider society and ostracized as undesirables.
Sometimes groups are marginalized by society at large, but governments are often unwitting or enthusiastic participants. For example, the U.S. government marginalized cultural minorities, particularly blacks, prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...
. This Act made it illegal to restrict access to schools and public places based on race. Equal opportunity
Equal opportunity, or equality of opportunity, is a controversial political concept; and an important informal decision-making standard without a precise definition involving fair choices within the public sphere...
laws which actively oppose such marginalization, allow increased empowerment to occur. They are also a symptom of minorities' and women's empowerment through lobbying.
Marginalized people who lack self-sufficiency become, at a minimum, dependent on charity, or welfare. They lose their self-confidence because they cannot be fully self-supporting. The opportunities denied them also deprive them of the pride of accomplishment which others, who have those opportunities, can develop for themselves. This in turn can lead to psychological, social and even mental health problems.
Empowerment is then the process of obtaining these basic opportunities for marginalized people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalized others who share their own access to these opportunities. It also includes actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities. Empowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group. This process can be difficult to start and to implement effectively, but there are many examples of empowerment projects which have succeeded.
One empowerment strategy is to assist marginalized people to create their own nonprofit organization, using the rationale that only the marginalized people, themselves, can know what their own people need most, and that control of the organization by outsiders can actually help to further entrench marginalization. Charitable organizations lead from outside of the community, for example, can disempower the community by entrenching a dependence on charity or welfare. A nonprofit organization can target strategies that cause structural changes, reducing the need for ongoing dependence. Red Cross, for example, can focus on improving the health of indigenous people, but does not have authority in its charter to install water-delivery and purification systems, even though the lack of such a system profoundly, directly and negatively impacts health. A nonprofit composed of the indigenous people, however, could ensure their own organization does have such authority and could set their own agendas, make their own plans, seek the needed resources, do as much of the work as they can, and take responsibility - and credit - for the success of their projects (or the consequences, should they fail).
Numerous critical perspectives exist that propose that an empowerment paradigm is present, Clark (2008) showed that whilst there was a degree of autonomy provided by empowerment, it also made way for extended surveillance and control, hence the contradiction perspective (Fardini, 2001).people
Empowerment of women, also called gender empowerment, has become a significant topic of discussion in regards to development and economics. Entire nations, businesses, communities, and groups can benefit from the implementation of programs and policies that adopt the notion of women empowerment. Empowerment is one of the main procedural concerns when addressing human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...
International development or global development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is most used in a holistic and multi-disciplinary context of human development — the development of greater quality of life for humans...
. The Human Development and Capabilities Approach
The capability approach was initially conceived in the 1980s as an approach to welfare economics....
, The Millennium Development Goals, and other credible approaches/goals point to empowerment and participation as a necessary step if a country is to overcome the obstacles associated with poverty and development.
Measuring gender empowerment
Gender empowerment can be measured through the Gender Empowerment Measure
The United Nation's Development Programme's attempt to measure the extent of gender equality across the globe's countries, based on estimates of women's relative economic income, high-paying positions, and access to professional and parliamentary positions....
, or the GEM. The GEM shows women’s participation in a given nation, both politically and economically. Gem is calculated by tracking “the share of seats in parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...
held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female profession and technical workers; and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence.” It then ranks countries given this information. Other measures that take into account the importance of female participation and equality include: the Gender Parity Index
The Gender Parity Index is a socioeconomic index usually designed to measure the relative access to education of males and females. In its simplest form, it is calculated as the quotient of the number of females by the number of males enrolled in a given stage of education...
and the Gender-related Development Index
The Gender-related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure were introduced in 1995 in the Human Development Report written by the United Nations Development Program. The aim of these measurements was to add a gender-sensitive dimension to the HDI. The first measurement that they...
Ways to empower women
One way to deploy the empowerment of women is through land rights
Land law is the form of law that deals with the rights to use, alienate, or exclude others from land. In many jurisdictions, these species of property are referred to as real estate or real property, as distinct from personal property. Land use agreements, including renting, are an important...
. Land rights offer a key way to economically empower women, giving them the confidence they need to tackle gender inequalities. Often, women in developing nations are legally restricted from their land on the sole basis of gender. Having a right to their land gives women a sort of bargaining power
Bargaining power is a concept related to the relative abilities of parties in a situation to exert influence over each other. If both parties are on an equal footing in a debate, then they will have equal bargaining power, such as in a perfectly competitive market, or between an evenly matched...
that they wouldn’t normally have, in turn; they gain the ability to assert themselves in various aspects of their life, both in and outside of the home.
Another way to provide women empowerment is to allocate responsibilities to them that normally belong to men. When women have economic empowerment, it is a way for others to see them as equal members of society. Through this, they achieve more self-respect and confidence by their contributions to their communities. Simply including women as a part of a community can have sweeping positive effects. In a study conducted by Bina Agarwal
Bina Agarwal is a prize-winning development economist and Director and Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi. She has written extensively on land, livelihoods and property rights; environment and development; the political economy of gender; poverty and inequality;...
, women were given a place in a forest conservation group. Not only did this drive up the efficiency of the group, but the women gained incredible self-esteem while others, including men, viewed them with more respect.
Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions - and ideally exert influence - regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. Participatory decision making can take place along any realm of human social activity, including...
, which can be seen and gained in a variety of ways, has been argued to be the most beneficial form of gender empowerment. Political participation, be it the ability to vote and voice opinions, or the ability to run for office with a fair chance of being elected, plays a huge role in the empowerment of peoples. However, participation is not limited to the realm of politics. It can include participation in the household
The household is "the basic residential unit in which economic production, consumption, inheritance, child rearing, and shelter are organized and carried out"; [the household] "may or may not be synonymous with family"....
, in schools, and the ability to make choices for oneself. It can be said that these latter participations need to be achieved before one can move onto broader political participation. When women have the agency to do what she wants, a higher equality between men and women is established.
It is argued that Microcredit
Microcredit is the extension of very small loans to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit...
also offers a way to provide empowerment for women. Governments, organizations, and individuals have caught hold of the lure of microfinance
Microfinance is the provision of financial services to low-income clients or solidarity lending groups including consumers and the self-employed, who traditionally lack access to banking and related services....
. They hope that lending money and credit allows women to function in business and society, which in turn empowers them to do more in their communities. One of the primary goals in the foundation of microfinance was women empowerment. Loans with low interest rates are given to women in developing communities in hopes that they can start a small business and provide for her family. It should be said, however, that the success and efficiency of microcredit and microloans is controversial and constantly debated.
Economic benefits of women empowerment
Most women across the globe rely on the informal work sector for an income. If women were empowered to do more and be more, the possibility for economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...
becomes apparent. Eliminating a significant part of a nation’s work force on the sole basis of gender can have detrimental effects on the economy of that nation. In addition, female participation in counsels, groups, and businesses is seen to increase efficiency. For a general idea on how an empowered women can impact a situation monetarily, a study found that of fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect. The list includes publicly and...
companies, “those with more women board directors had significantly higher financial returns, including 53 percent higher returns on equity, 24 percent higher returns on sales and 67 percent higher returns on invested capital (OECD, 2008).” This study shows the impact women can have on the overall economic benefits of a company. If implemented on a global scale, the inclusion of women in the formal workforce (like a fortune 500 company) can increase the economic output of a nation.
Barriers of women empowerment
Many of the barriers to women empowerment and equity lie ingrained into the cultures of certain nations and societies. Many women feel these pressures, while others have become accustomed to being treated inferior to men. Even if men, legislators, NGOs, etc. are aware of the benefits women empowerment and participation can have, many are scared of disrupting the status quo and continue to let societal norms get in the way of development.
The process of empowerment
The process which enables individuals/groups to fully access personal/collective power, authority and influence, and to employ that strength when engaging with other people, institutions or society. In other words, “Empowerment is not giving people power, people already have plenty of power, in the wealth of their knowledge and motivation, to do their jobs magnificently. We define empowerment as letting this power out (Blanchard, K)." It encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work environment and ultimately, help them develop within themselves or in the society. Empowerment may also have a negative impact on individuals, corporations and productivity depending on an individuals views and goals. It can divide the genders or the races. Strong skills and critical capabilities are often held back to open doors for those who meet the empowerment criteria. Those who use empowerment as a selfish advantage tend to become difficult, demeaning and even hostile colleagues. The end result is a weak business model.
Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:-
- The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances
- The ability to access information and resources for decision-making
- Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose (not just yes/no, either/or.)
- Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
- Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change
- Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance.
- Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement.
- Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
- Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
- Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong
Empowerment of employees in the work place provides them with opportunities to make their own decisions with regards to their tasks. Now-a-days more and more bosses and managers are practicing the concept of empowerment among their subordinates to provide them with better opportunities. According to Thomas A Potterfield, employee empowerment is considered by many organizational theorists and practitioners to be one of the most important and popular management concepts of our time. Companies ranging from small to large and from low-technology manufacturing concerns to high-tech software firms have been initiating empowerment programs in attempts to enhance employee motivation, increase efficiency, and gain competitive advantages in the turbulent contemporary business environment.
Empowerment in management
In the book Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute
, the authors, Ken Blanchard, John P. Carlos, and Alan Randolph, illustrate three simple keys that organizations can use to effectively open the knowledge, experience, and motivation power that people already have. The three keys that managers must use to empower their employees are: share information with everyone, create autonomy through boundaries and replace the old hierarchy with self-managed teams.
According to author Stewart, in her book Empowering People
she describes that in order to guarantee a successful work environment, managers need to exercise the “right kind of authority” (p.6). To summarize, “empowerment is simply the effective use of a manager’s authority”, and subsequently, it is a productive way to maximize all-around work efficiency.
Share information with everyone – this is the first key to empowering people within an organization. By sharing information with everyone, you are giving them a clear picture of the company and its current situation. Another strong point that this brings is trust; by allowing all of the employees to view the company information, it helps to build that trust between employer and employee.
Create autonomy through boundaries – this is the second key to empowerment which also builds upon the previous one. By opening communication through sharing information, it opens up the feedback about what is holding them back from being empowered.
Replace the old hierarchy with self-managed teams – this is the third and final key to empowerment which ties them all together. By replacing the old hierarchy with self-managed teams, more responsibility is placed upon unique and self-managed teams which create better communication and productivity.
These keys are hard to put into place and it is a journey to achieve empowerment in a workplace. It is important to train employees and make sure they have trust in what empowerment will bring to a company.
In economic development
Economic development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area...
, the empowerment approach focuses on mobilizing the self-help
Self-help, or self-improvement, is a self-guided improvement—economically, intellectually, or emotionally—often with a substantial psychological basis. There are many different self-help movements and each has its own focus, techniques, associated beliefs, proponents and in some cases, leaders...
efforts of the poor, rather than providing them with social welfare. Economic empowerment is also the empowering of previously disadvantaged sections of the population, for example, in many previously colonized African countries.
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...
Self-ownership is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to be the exclusive controller of his own body and life. According to G...
- Employee engagement
Employee engagement, also called worker engagement, is a business management concept. An "engaged employee" is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about their work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization's interests...
- Youth empowerment
Youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults....
- Black economic empowerment
Black Economic Empowerment is a programme launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups economic opportunities previously not available to them...
- Angela Rose
Angela Rose is an American activist, musician, and documentary film producer, best known for her work as the Founder and Executive Director of the national nonprofit PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment.-Activism:...