Monday 6 August 2012


Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, educational, gender, or economic strength of individuals and communities.
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:

Women empowerment
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 and development. The Human Development and Capabilities Approach, 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


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 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 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.

Violence against women is a global problem that violates the basic human rights of women and impedes progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces.
The rise in domestic violence cases has laid open the practice of discrimination against women as a tradition. But it has also been observed that economically empowered women are better able to tackle domestic violence and also lead others out of this traumatic problem. A few case studies on this issue have given evidence as to how entrepreneurial women have fought back against violence and have established themselves as independent leaders of their community. Based upon these stories, it is proposed to scale up these small cases of success by education women and empowering them with livelihood skills so that they are able to confidently fight back against domestic violence.

Gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and from fear. Empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty.
Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation. The importance of gender equality is underscored by its inclusion as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Gender equality is acknowledged as being a key to achieving the other seven goals.
Yet discrimination against women and girls - including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices - remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality. Women and girls bear enormous hardship during and after humanitarian emergencies, especially armed conflicts. For more than 30 years, the Fund has been in the forefront of advocating for women, promoting legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection, and supporting projects that improve women's health and expand their choices in life.


Promoting gender equality and empowering women

Combating violence against women is central to the Goal 3, that of promoting gender equality; at the same time, achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to the elimination of violence against women. Since violence against women has such serious impacts on women’s lives and their health, productivity and well-being, it must be addressed as a cross-cutting issue if Goal 3 is to be achieved. The attainment of MDG 3 will require a comprehensive approach to overcome not only violence against women, but also gender-based discrimination in laws and policies, and deeply embedded social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality
Violence against women and gender inequality result from a complex array of interwoven factors. These include harmful gender norms and traditions, and social acceptance of violence as an accepted means of conflict resolution. Violence against women is often embedded in social customs that allow it to be perpetrated with impunity – even, in many cases, without being considered as violence, let alone a crime. In many parts of the world, women have no social or legal recourse against violence by their husband or partner. Harmful gender roles can be reinforced by traditional practices such as widow-cleansing, wife inheritance, child marriage and female genital mutilation. Dowry and bride-price can become a basis for demands, resentment, threats and abuse by husbands and in-laws, and women who try to leave abusive marriages may be murdered or driven to suicide. Women and girls are killed because they are thought to have tarnished the honour of their husbands or families. Since such murder is considered justified, the perpetrators face no consequences. Efforts to empower women must address current norms and traditional social customs that legitimize violence against them, as well as legislation and enforcement of laws that discriminate against them.
A wide variety of tools and strategies will be required to overcome deeply embedded gender norms and systemic discrimination against women. These include visible and sustained leadership by politicians and other key figures in society, communication campaigns aimed at changing norms and attitudes, law reform on issues such as property rights, divorce, and political participation, and credit and skills-building programmes to increase women’s economic independence.

Greater equality and empowerment will help many women to avoid violence. But the violence will never disappear unless men also change their attitudes and reject violence against women as acceptable behaviour in any context, including in the home.
Most of the violence experienced by women is perpetrated by someone they know – most often, their husband or partner. A review of nearly 50 population-based surveys from around the world found that between 10% and 50% of women reported being hit or physically abused by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives . However, a significant amount of violence is perpetrated by strangers, as well as authority figures such as the police or men in government, and by combatants during armed conflict. The effects on women range from death and injury to psychological trauma, chronic ill-health, and reproductive health consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), unwanted pregnancy, miscarriages, and increased numbers of induced abortions . Initiatives to promote gender equality must deal openly and vigorously with the issue of partner violence, because women will never be equal in their public lives until they are equal at home.
A mix of interventions specifically aimed at reducing violence and protecting women will be required. These interventions include enactment and enforcement of sanctions against men who perpetrate violence against women; training of judiciary, police and health care workers to recognize and deal appropriately with violence against women; and services for women experiencing violence such as shelters, telephone hotlines; psychological and legal advice, and support networks . Continuous monitoring of such initiatives is important. Governments should ensure that statistics on violence against women, including on prosecution and conviction rates, are regularly collected and disseminated and that interventions to address violence are properly evaluated.

  • Blanchard, Kenneth H., John P. Carlos, and Alan Randolph. Empowerment Takes More than a Minute. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.
  • Thomas, K. W. and Velthouse, B. A. (1990) "Cognitive Elements of Empowerment: An 'Interpretive' Model of Intrinsic Task Motivation". Academy of Management Review, Vol 15, No. 4, 666-681.
  • Stewart, Aileen Mitchell. Empowering People (Institute of Management). Pitman. London: Financial Times Management, 1994.
  Foshee V.A. et al. (2004). Assessing the long-term effects of the Safe Dates program and a booster in preventing and reducing adolescent dating violence victimization and perpetration. American Journal of Public health, 94(4):619-624.
  •   ^ Kim J et al. (2009). Assessing the incremental effects of combining economic and health interventions: the IMAGE study in South Africa. Bulletin of the world Health Organization, 87(11):824-832.

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