ArticlePDF Available

Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse

Authors:

Abstract

The notion of “empowerment” features prominently in the contemporary discourse of international institutions on “participation of the poor” in development programs. This article traces the history of the word in the field of international development, namely its origins, influences, first appearances in feminist theories from the Global South and in radical activism in the 1980s, and its gradual institutionalization in the policy vocabulary of international development organizations. Along with its cooptation, empowerment has shifted course from its beginnings as a process of conscientization and grassroots political mobilization aimed at the radical transformation of inequitable political structures, to a vague and falsely consensual concept. It has come to assimilate power with individual and economic decision-making, de-politicize collective power, and is used to legitimize existing top-down development policies and programs.
EMPOWERMENT: THE HISTORY OF A KEY CONCEPT IN
CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSE
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
Armand Colin | « Revue Tiers Monde »
2009/4 No 200 | pages 735 - 749
ISSN 1293-8882
ISBN 9782200926038
This document is a translation of:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès, « « Empowerment » : généalogie d'un concept clé du discours
contemporain sur le développement », Revue Tiers Monde 2009/4 (No 200), p. 735-749.
DOI 10.3917/rtm.200.0735
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Translated from the French by JPD Systems
Available online at :
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_RTM_200_0735--empowerment-the-history-of-a-key-
concept.htm
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
!How to cite this article :
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès, « « Empowerment » : généalogie d'un concept clé du discours
contemporain sur le développement », Revue Tiers Monde 2009/4 (No 200), p. 735-749.
DOI 10.3917/rtm.200.0735
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Electronic distribution by Cairn on behalf of Armand Colin.
© Armand Colin. All rights reserved for all countries.
Reproducing this article (including by photocopying) is only authorized in accordance with the general terms and
conditions of use for the website, or with the general terms and conditions of the license held by your institution, where
applicable. Any other reproduction, in full or in part, or storage in a database, in any form and by any means whatsoever
is strictly prohibited without the prior written consent of the publisher, except where permitted under French law.
Powered by TCPDF (www.tcpdf.org)
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
MOBILISATIONS SOCIALES ET
POLITIQUES : LES SOCIÉTÉS
EN MOUVEMENT
MOBILISATIONS COLLECTIVES À L’ÉPREUVE
DES CHANGEMENTS AU MAROC
Bouchra Sidi Hida*
Le changement lié au processus de modernité et aux réformes portées par la politique de
libéralisation économique engagée par le Maroc, s’accompagne de l’émergence de nouveaux
acteurs sociaux qui s’approprient Internet, Facebook, en tant qu’espace virtuel de liberté
d’expression pour une nouvelle socialisation des mobilisations collectives. En investissant
l’espace public par de nouvelles stratégies et un nouveau répertoire d’action, ils tentent de
renverser les conventions, les coutumes et les croyances pour des droits plus subjectifs. La
nouveauté de ces actions se situe dans leur extraversion. Ces mobilisations collectives seront
pensées et analysées par la sociologie du sujet, une démarche traitant l’acteur à travers son
rapport social à l’autre. Ce rapport reflète une tension dynamique qui semble génératrice de
conflits permanents, voire de changement. L’article se base sur l’observation, des entretiens
et une analyse documentaire.
Mots clés
:
Mobilisations collectives, Internet, Facebook, espace virtuel/public, activisme
numérique, Maroc.
Dans un contexte mondialisé caractérisé par l’accélération, l’encouragement
et l’intensification des flux d’investissement, d’échanges et d’informations
provoqués par l’ouverture économique et culturelle que connaît le Maroc
actuellement – notamment par le biais de traités de zones de libre-échange
avec l’Union européenne, les États-Unis et des pays arabes, mais également par
* Chercheure au CERSS, Rabat-Agdal, est également chercheure associée à l’IED de l’UCL en Belgique et à la CRIEC à l’UQAM
au Québec. Elle mène des recherches sur l’altermondialisme marocain, maghrébin, sur la société civile et sur l’immigration en
Belgique et à Montréal.
HORS SÉRIE 2011 Revue Tiers Monde 163
“RTM_HS02” (Col. : RevueTiersMonde) — 2011/3/28 — 9:50 — page 163 — #163
I
WORDS FOR DEVELOPMENT:
PATHS, TRANSFORMATIONS,
AND POWER RELATIONSHIPS
EMPOWERMENT
: THE HISTORY OF A KEY CONCEPT
IN CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSE
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès*
The notion of “empowerment” features prominently in the contemporary discourse of in-
ternational institutions on “participation of the poor” in development programs. This article
traces the history of the word in the field of international development, namely its origins,
influences, first appearances in feminist theories from the Global South and in radical activ-
ism in the 1980s, and its gradual institutionalization in the policy vocabulary of international
development organizations. Along with its cooptation, empowerment has shifted course from
its beginnings as a process of conscientization and grassroots political mobilization aimed at
the radical transformation of inequitable political structures, to a vague and falsely consen-
sual concept. It has come to assimilate power with individual and economic decision-making,
de-politicize collective power, and is used to legitimize existing top-down development poli-
cies and programs.
Key words: Empowerment, poverty reduction, gender, development policy, discourse.
Since the late 1970s, the term “empowerment” has been liberally applied by
academics and aid workers in the English-speaking world, including in social
services, social psychology, public health, adult literacy and community devel-
opment (Simon 1994). Today the word is even more in vogue and has even
entered the worlds of politics and business. From popular psychology to
self-help, the infatuation with empowerment in the English-speaking world
appears boundless: in 1997 there was even a book published in the United
States on “self-empowerment” for dogs (Wise 2005).
* University of Montreal
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
II
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
e eld of international development has not been immune to this enthu-
siasm for the term, and the idea of empowerment features prominently in the
current discourse of international development organizations. From the 1990s,
the concept began to gradually gain a footing in the international gender and
development agenda. By the end of the decade it had denitively entered the
new credo of international development organizations on poverty reduction.
Generally used in combination with other fashionable terms, such as “commu-
nity,” “civil society,” and “agency,”the idea of empowerment is now at the heart
of the rhetoric of the “participation of the poor” in development.
ough the terms adoption by international institutions was initially wel-
comed enthusiastically by a number of intellectuals, activists, and develop-
ment professionals (Wong 2003), it is strongly criticized today. In order to
understand the current controversy and debate around the use of this idea in
mainstream development discourse, we must revisit the origins of the concept.
e purpose of this article is to trace the history of the term “empowerment
as it applies to the eld of development. We will discuss its origins and inu-
ences, its initial appearance in radical and feminist discourse in the 1980s, and
then its gradual institutionalization in the political language of international
development organizations, particularly the World Bank. We will examine the
evolution of the term’s meaning and ensuing policy prescriptions over time,
and also provide a summary of the strong criticism that its cooptation evokes
to day.
I – ORIGINS AND FIRST APPEARANCES
1 – Pioneering Works in the 1960s and 1970s
e many origins and sources of inspiration of the notion of empowerment
can be traced back to such varied domains as feminism, Freudian psychology,
theology, the Black Power movement, and Gandhism (Simon 1994; Cornwall
and Brock 2005). Empowerment refers to principles, such as the ability of
individuals and groups to act in order to ensure their own well-being or their
right to participate in decision-making that concerns them, that have guided
research on and social intervention among poor and marginalized populations
for several decades in the United States (Simon 1994). Not until the 1970s,
and especially the 1976 publication of Black Empowerment: Social Work in
Oppressed Communities by Barbara Solomon, however, does the term formally
come into usage by social service providers and researchers. In the context of
various social protest movements , the word begins to be used increasingly
in research and intervention concerning marginalized groups such as African
Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and people with disabilities.
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
III
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
us, early theories of empowerment that developed in the United States
are anchored in a philosophy that gives priority to the points of view held by
oppressed peoples, enabling them not only to express themselves, but also to
gain power and overcome the domination to which they were subject (Wise
2005). Among the many inspirations for these writings on empowerment, one
of the foremost is the conscientization approach developed by the Brazilian the-
orist Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, published in 1968. In fact,
the vast majority of works on empowerment make some reference to Freire.
According to Freire (1974), in every society a small number of people exert
domination over the masses, resulting in “dominated consciousness.” From the
dominated consciousness present in rural Brazil, Freire wants to attain “critical
consciousness.” He advocates an active teaching method that would help the
individual become aware of his own situation, of himself as “Subject,” so that
he may obtain the “instruments that would allow him to make choices” and
become “politically conscious” (Freire, 1974). For Freire, “the role of the edu-
cator is not simply to transmit knowledge to the student, but to seek alongside
him the means to transform the world that surrounds him.” (p. 9).
Freires concept of “developing critical consciousness,” which makes it pos-
sible for the oppressed to move from understanding to acting, did not take
long to appeal to American researchers and aid workers, but as also activists
and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in international devel-
opment. Starting in the late 1960s, the dominant model that reduced develop-
ment to economic growth is increasingly criticized. e failures of development
policies and programs lead a growing number of researchers and non-govern-
mental organizations to campaign for greater awareness of the social dimen-
sions of development. On the basis of initial eld evaluations of development
projects, particularly by anthropologists, alternative models based on “endog-
enous” and “self-focused” development are proposed (Tommasoli 2004). ere
are a rejection of the asymmetrical principal of technology transfer, and of
“top-down” planning, information ow, and decision-making. In opposition
to these, “bottom-up” approaches are put forth, in which aid recipients are
considered active, not passive, participants in development. e creation in
1976 of the “International Foundation for Development Alternatives” (IFDA)
is an indication of the growing recognition, in the Global North as well as in
the South, of the drawbacks of the “vertical” development model where “politi-
cal and economic power dri away from the people” (IFDA 1980, 20). e
ird System Project launched by the IFDA in 1976 is the result of demands
voiced during the 1972 conference on the environment held in Stockholm
and in the 1975 Dag Hammarskjöld report titled What to Do: Alternative
Development (Friedman 1992). is project calls for an alternative develop-
ment model anchored in the “local space,” and the “primary community,
whether geographical or organizational” (IFDA 1980, 11). e project aims
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
IV
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
at “improved forms of political decision-making – facilitating people’s access
to power and resources both locally and nationally,” (IFDA 1980, 20) “so that
they may regain their autonomous power from organized business.” (IFDA
1980, 21)
Although the idea that power held by individuals and communities should
play a central role in alternative development models starts to gain traction by
the late 1970s, as Friedman (1992) points out, it is still limited to a handful of
academics and development professionals. Not until the mid-1980s will the
term empowerment begin to be used formally in the development eld.
2 – Feminist and Radical Discourse on Empowerment in the 1980s
e feminist movement in the Global South can be credited with the for-
mal appearance of the term “empowerment” in the eld of international devel-
opment. A turning point in the concept’s history came in 1987 with the pub-
lication of Development, Crises and Alternative Visions: ird World Women’s
Perspectives (Sen and Grown 1987). is book is the result of the reection of
feminist researchers, activists, and political leaders from the Global South, who
collectively formed the network known as DAWN (Development Alternatives
with Women for a New Era) founded in Bangalore in 1984. It introduces broad
principles for a new approach to the role of women in development. is
approach will soon be labeled the “empowerment approach” (Moser 1989).
Pointing to the failure of the orthodox “top-down” development model,
DAWN’s publication calls for “new approaches to development” (p. 10) and dis-
cusses perspectives and methods needed by women “to begin transform gender
subordination and in the process to break down other oppressive structures as
well” (Sen and Grown 1987, 22). e authors are very critical of the “women
and development” programs instated during the United Nations Decade for
Women (1976-1985), and reject the premise that the primary problem facing
women in the Global South is that they are not suciently integrated in the
development process. For the DAWN feminists, economic independence and
the satisfaction of basic survival needs are not sucient means for reinforcing
womens power. Rather, this will come about through a radical transformation
of the economic, political, legal, and social structures that perpetuate gender,
race, and class dominations. ese are the very structures that prevent the sat-
isfaction of strategic needs related to the creation of egalitarian relationships
in society. e advocates of the empowerment approach are critical of past
approaches in favor of women that tended to come from the top down. ey
regard grassroots women’s organizations as the “catalysts of womens visions
and perspectives,” the spearheads that will bring about the structural changes
needed to satisfy their strategic needs (Sen and Grown 1987, 114). In addition
to legislative changes, “political mobilization, conscientization and education
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
V
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
for the people” are at the heart of the strategies for “the promotion of develop-
ment free of all forms of oppression based on sex, class, race, or nationality”
(Sen and Grown 1987, 1).
Following the release of Sen and Growns book, the number of feminist
publications on empowerment, gender, and development explodes through-
out the 1990s, particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America. For example,
in Women’s Empowerment in South Asia: Concepts and Practices, published
in 1993, Indian researcher and activist Srilatha Batliwala denes empower-
ment as a process of transforming the power relationships between individu-
als and social groups. Batliwala argues that power relationships can only be
changed through action on three dierent fronts: by questioning the ideolo-
gies that justify inequality (such as social systems determined by gender or
caste), by changing the means of access and control of economic, natural, and
intellectual resources, and by transforming the structures and institutions that
reinforce and preserve existing power systems (such as family, the state, the
market, education, and media). Joining Batliwala are other feminists, such as
Naila Kabeer (1994), Magdalena León (1997), and Jo Rowlands (1995), who
emphasize the multifaceted nature of the empowerment process for women in
the Global South and developed theories on the links between empowerment
and power. For these feminists, empowerment diers from holding “power
of domination” over someone else ( “power over”); it is more of a creative
power that can be used to accomplish things (“power to”), a collective politi-
cal power used by grassroots organizations (“power with”), and also a “power
from within,” referring to self-condence and the capacity to undo the eects
of internalized oppression.
In Latin America, according to León (2003), the four meetings of the
Movimiento de Mujeres de Latinoamérica which take place in Taxco, Mexico
in 1987, are the setting for discussions that move beyond the discourse of
victimization of women, and evoke other forms of power than that of domi-
nation by men (“power over”) to acknowledge that power can be a produc-
tive source of change. During this period, the concept of empoderamiento
advocated by several feminist NGOs and “popular sector” activists proposes,
in the tradition of Paulo Freire, eorts to provide a feminist education to
poor women from slums and rural areas by means of “consciousness raising
workshops” with the aim of bolstering self-condence as well as womens
individual and collective capacities to transform oppressive social structures
(Fischer 2005, Sardenberg 2008). Empowerment initiatives also proliferate
in Asia and Africa among grassroots feminist organizations such as the Self-
Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Working Women Forum in
India, Grabriela in the Philippines, Proshika in Bangladesh, and the Green
Belt movement in Kenya.
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
VI
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
ough feminist literature focuses on the process of empowerment for
women, most of these publications recognize that the issue of empowerment is
relevant to women as well as men. In fact, in response to widening inequalities
between the Global North and the Global South, and to the increase in poverty
in many developing countries during the rst decade of the structural adjust-
ment policies, a growing number of intellectuals and activists begin to consider
alternative development models. Several authors reject the Western develop-
ment model and return to the rhetoric of participation and the “bottom-up”
models of the 1970s, wherein the engine of development is the empowerment
of the poor and the local community, rather than the market and the state. For
example, in Empowerment: e Politics of Alternative Development, published
in 1992, John Friedman describes poverty in the Global South as a historical
process of exclusion from economic and social power, or “disempowerment,
rather than as an absence of material and nancial resources. To combat pov-
erty, Friedman advocates moving away from the dominant classical economic
model in favor of an alternative model focused on people and the environ-
ment, rather than production and prot (Friedman 1992, 31). His model of
empowerment is not only social and political in nature, but also relates to the
psychological empowerment of individuals and households. According to
Friedman, society’s unequal power structures must be rebalanced, so that the
state becomes more responsible for its actions, the power held by civil society
increases, and large corporations become more socially responsible (Friedman
1992, 31). Like the feminist authors, Friedman indicates that empowerment
begins with the mobilization of civil society around local issues, before the
movement gains ground and takes on oppression at the national and interna-
tional levels.
II – THE GRADUAL ASSIMILATION OF THE TERM
INTO THE VOCABULARY OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
1 – From Women’s Empowerment. . .
At rst deemed too radical, the empowerment approach developed in the
1980s by the feminists of the Global South initially received no support from
governments or bilateral and multilateral development agencies (Parpart
2002). Increasingly numerous and well-organized feminist NGOs pled for the
terms use, however, and by the mid-1990s, it had entered institutionalized dis-
course on women in development.
e International Conference on Population and Development held in
Cairo in 1994 is one of the rst UN conferences to give the concept interna-
tional visibility. ough the conference is not specically focused on women,
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
VII
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
the action plan adopted in Cairo identies womens empowerment and gender
and sexual rights as central to population issues. Feminist activist networks
such as the International Womens Health Coalition (IWHC) and DAWN,
which are strongly represented at the conference and at the preparatory meet-
ings and discussions, contributed signicantly toward focusing the agenda
on these issues. Two chapters in the action plan explicitly address the issues
of equality between the sexes and women’s lack of power around the world.
Among the issues discussed in these chapters relating to the strengthening of
power are the following: political representation and participation, education,
employment, reproductive and sexual health, violence and rape, equality in
the justice system, property rights, income inequality, and the distribution
of work (Halfon 2007, 71). According to Gita Sen, “Chapter 4 on women’s
empowerment abandons the old and neutral language of womens status for
a more proactive acknowledgment of gender power relations” (Sen 1995 in
Halfon 2007, 71).
e following year, the fourth United Nations conference on women takes
place in Beijing. is conference marks another decisive moment for the entry
of the term empowerment into UN discourse on women and development.
According to ocial documents, the platform for action adopted at the confer-
ence constitutes “an agenda for the empowerment of women” (United Nations,
1995). e report clearly states, “womens empowerment and their full par-
ticipation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participa-
tion in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for
the achievement of equality, development and peace” (United Nations 1995,
8). Following the Beijing conference, the term is rapidly picked up by bilat-
eral aid agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency
(CIDA), which in 1999 denes the empowerment of women as one of the eight
basic principles of its policy on gender equality (Parpart 2002). By the end
of the 1990s, women’s empowerment had become a notion, as described by
Bissiliat, that is “politically correct, and which all international organizations,
at least in public communications, cannot aord to do without” (2000,26). To
“promote gender equality and empower women” is actually the third of the
eight Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 by the United Nations at its
Millennium summit.
2 – . . . To the Empowerment of the Poor
e increasingly virulent and widespread criticism of the social conse-
quences of structural adjustment, the increasing poverty in many develop-
ing countries, the nancial crises of 1997-1998, particularly in Asia and Latin
America, the rising debt burden, and the resulting crisis of legitimacy besetting
the Bretton Woods institutions lead the latter to gradually refocus their dis-
course on the issue of poverty. e eradication of poverty have become the credo
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
VIII
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
of all these international organizations by the end of the 1990s, as evidenced by
a number of international summits, including the Millennium Summit in New
York in 2000, the sustainable development summit in Johannesburg in 2002,
and the Monterrey conference on nancing for development in 2002. As for
the World Bank, the publication of the World Development Report 2000/2001:
Attacking Poverty marks the institutionalization of the term “empowerment”
in this new poverty alleviation discourse.
Empowerment” appears in the report alongside “opportunity” and “secu-
rity” as the three pillars of the ght against poverty. As observed by Wong
(2003), this unprecedented inclusion of the term “empowerment” evoked
surprise but also some enthusiasm among many development professionals.
Having long been accused of avoiding any mention of power in its discourse
on poverty, or limiting it to discussion of the poor’s lack of power, the World
Bank explicitly recognizes with the use of the concept, the political dimen-
sion of power (Wong 2003). According to the report, “empowerment means
enhancing the capacity of poor people to inuence the state institutions that
aect their lives, by strengthening their participation in political processes and
local decision-making” (World Bank 2001, 39). As “voicelessness and pow-
erlessness are key dimensions of poverty» (World Bank 2001, 112), the ght
against poverty thus becomes inseparable from empowerment of the poor.
In keeping with the discussion of “good governance” already in vogue in the
Bretton Woods institutions, the World Development Report goes on to suggest
that fostering empowerment requires “making state institutions more respon-
sive to the poor” (especially through democratization, decentralization, the
development of associations for the poor, and collaboration among communi-
ties and local authorities).
On the heels of its development report, under the direction of Deepa
Narayan in 2002 the World Bank releases a publication entitled Empowerment
and Poverty Reduction: A Sourcebook which aims to rene and render opera-
tional the empowerment concept (Narayan, 2002). Referring to the work of
Amartya Sen on individual liberties and “basic capabilities,” empowerment is
dened as “the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to partici-
pate in, negotiate with, inuence, control, and hold accountable institutions
that aect their lives” (Narayan 2002, xviii). Following the publication of the
sourcebook, discussion of the concept continues at the World Bank, particu-
larly in the Poverty Reduction Group and the Empowerment Team led by Ruth
Alsop. Two works devoted to measuring empowerment (Narayan, 2005) and
making the concept implementable (Aslop, Bertelsen, and Holland, 2006) are
published. ese two works bear testament to a noticeable change in the per-
ception of the term “empowerment,” now dened as “the process of enhancing
an individual’s or groups capacity to make purposive choices and to trans-
form those choices into desired actions and outcomes” (Aslop, Bertelsen, and
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
IX
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
Holland 2006: 1). Empowerment is now no longer simply a matter of increas-
ing the assets, capacities and capabilities of poor people and groups, enabling
them to make choices (which became known as “agency of the poor”); it also
depends on the way in which social relations in the broadest sense (institu-
tional and otherwise) determine individuals’ and groups’ capacities to trans-
form these choices into action.
e central position of empowerment in Post-Washington Consensus
rhetoric on poverty reduction was soon reected in the programs and policies
implemented in the Global South. In 2005 more than 1,800 projects nanced
by the World Bank mentioned “empowerment” in their documentation (Aslop,
Bertelsen, and Holland, 2006). Empowering the poor is also an integral part of
the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which are key tools of contem-
porary international development policies.
III – A CONTESTED COOPTATION
e enthusiasm initially spawned among many intellectuals, activists, and
development professionals by international development agencies’ adoption
of the concept of empowerment did not last. e cooptation of the term in
the predominant discourse drew vehement criticism directed at the concept’s
denition and implementation, for the vision of power that it represents, and
its goals.
1 – A Vague and Falsely Consensual Term
ough the term “empowerment” is used widely in international develop-
ment language, it is in fact rarely dened (Oxaal and Baden 1997). e lack
of denition is particularly striking in “women’s empowerment,” which is the
term that has replaced “gender equality” and “womens status” in many pol-
icy and program documents (Batliwala 2007). In situations where the term
is dened, the denitions vary considerably from one agency to another.
Sometimes, multiple conceptions of the term even exist within a single organi-
zation. As was shown in the previous section, the World Bank oered three
dierent denitions of the term between 2001 and 2006, in three key docu-
ments addressing empowerment (World Bank 2001; Narayan 2004; Alsop,
Bertelsen, and Holland 2006). e term therefore remains ill-dened by inter-
national development organizations, and it has repeatedly been associated or
even merged with other approaches such as democratization, decentralization,
and political participation (Wong 2003).
Without any clear denition, empowerment has become a vague goal, a
fashionable term that is impossible to implement in the eld (Oxaal and Baden
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
X
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
1997; Bebbington, Lewis, Batterbury, Olson, and Siddiqi 2007). e words
extraordinary success among activists, women’s associations, NGOs, but also
among bilateral and multilateral development agencies is in fact due to the
very dierent meanings employed in each setting. As emphasized by Cornwall
and Brock (2005), empowerment is one of the vague, resolutely optimistic, and
“just” terms which, like poverty alleviation, can only bring about consensus.
By drawing on radical terminology and appropriating and reshaping a concept
to reect the preoccupations, hopes, and values of those working in the eld
– albeit without appearing threatening for the governments in place in poor
countries (Moore 2001) – international institutions have created a catchy but
hazily dened term that has become “hegemonic” and incontestable (Cornwall
and Brock 2005).
2 – The Domestication of the Concept: An Individualistic, Harmonious
Vision of Power
For many authors, especially feminists, the word “empowerment” has been
“taken hostage” by development agencies – whether multilateral, bilateral, or
private – and stripped of its original emphasis on the notion of power.1 While
the initial conception of empowerment concerns a complex and multifaceted
process that focuses on the individual and collective dimensions of power, the
terms cooptation in mainstream development discourse has been accompa-
nied by a more individualizing notion of power. Empowerment has become
synonymous with individual capacity, realization, and status. According to
Sardenberg (2008), the concepts cooptation entailed a transition from “lib-
erating empowerment” to “liberal empowerment,” the latter hinging on the
maximization of individual interests. For example, in his analysis of popu-
lation policies and programs implemented following the Cairo conference,
Halfon (2007) shows how the vision of women’s empowerment, particularly
in discussions on contraception, has focused on issues of individual choice,
access, and opportunity, while avoiding any discussion of women’s collective
political struggles to obtain power. He argues that measures of empowerment
are centered on indicators such as women’s access to services, employment,
and education, and put little focus on political mobilization or participation.
While the collective dimension of power is highlighted, the tools favored
by international organizations to promote empowerment of the poor, such as
community-based projects and, more recently, the participation of civil society
and particularly “associations of the poor” brought about by PRSPs, all reect
a “romantic” vision of local and community-based power wherein internal
power relations, conict, and social inequalities are deemphasized or ignored
1. The absence of references to power is well-illustrated in the French translations of the term in official documents. These opt
for the neutral terms insertion (‘integration’), and autonomisation (‘granting independence’).
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XI
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
(Wong 2003; Cling, Razandrakoto, and Roubaud 2002). Postcolonial femi-
nists also reject the essentialism that characterizes institutional approaches
to women’s empowerment, which continue to view women from developing
countries as a single homogeneous, monolithic category, without consid-
ering the diversity of power relations that exist within this group of women
(Mohanty 1988, Ferguson 2009). Feminists argue that, because institutional-
ized programs for empowerment oen disregard the “intersectional” nature
of power, particularly the ways in which racism, social class, and patriar-
chy all work to articulate, reinforce, and create inequality within groups of
women, these programs oen only benet the women who are the least mar-
ginalized. In Latin America, indigenous women’s organizations such as the
Asociacion Nacional de Mujeres Rurales et Indígenas (ANA-MURI) in Chile,
the Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas (CONAMI) in Mexico, and
the association for black women in Brazil also criticize the total disregard for
the voices of indigenous women, rural women, and women of African descent
in institutionalized programs for empowerment (Bodur and Franceschet 2002;
Sánchez Néstor 2005).
e “participation of the poor” in the policy formulation process – par-
ticularly within the PRSP framework – is generally reduced to its simplest
form (informing and consulting the poor), and only concerns a handful of
urban NGOs, which are considered the agents of project implementation
rather than real policy actors (Cling, Razandrakoto, and Roubaud 2002). As
noted by Bendaña on the topic of PRSPs, “political development processes
may vary, but the policy was largely determined in Washington and in local
nance ministries. It is therefore not surprising that major social movements
and unions have refused to participate or be included in lists of those ‘con-
sulted’” (Bendaña 2007, 115). Many autonomous-leaning feminists from Latin
America and the Caribbean also condemn the “NGO-ization” of feminism and
social movements, brought about by neoliberal reforms and the ballooning
of international nancing for gender issues, which concentrates participation
mechanisms on a small group of large professionalized NGOs and marginal-
izes the more radical grassroots organizations (Falquet 2007, Fischer 2005).
In its individual and de-politicized form, empowerment is also oen
reduced in practice to its economic dimension, while the psychological and
social dimensions of power are ignored (Wong 2003). is is well illustrated
by the exponential increase in microcredit initiatives and “self-help groups”
(SHGs), which international development organizations present as the
empowerment tool par excellence for women and the poor. In a recent assess-
ment of several SHGs funded by the World Bank and the government in the
Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, the Indian feminist organization
Nirantar (Sharma et al., 2007) shows how these initiatives are based on the
widespread assumption that access to nancial resources suces to empower
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XII
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
women economically, and that this will automatically lead to social empower-
ment. e study shows an entirely dierent reality. Loan repayment and sav-
ing dominate SHG agendas, leaving little room for education eorts or for the
conscientization” of women. Despite greater access to credit, the control of
funding remains in the hands of men, while workload and pressure to repay
loans are increasing for women.
3 – A Concept at the Service of the Status Quo
While, originally, empowerment was conceived as a strategy in opposi-
tion to the mainstream top-down development model, today it is viewed by
international organizations not as a mechanism for social transformation, but
rather as a means to increase eciency and productivity while maintaining
the status quo (Parpart 2002). e World Bank, for example, which appears
less concerned with the transformation of power relations in favor of the poor
than with the creation of a propitious environment for market penetration,
has imposed an “instrumental” vision of empowerment that is more interested
in how the poor can contribute to development than how development can
contribute to increase the power of the poor (Wong 2003, Mohan and Stokke
2000). us, the 2000-2001 report clearly stipulates that the goal of empower-
ment is to “build the assets of poor people to enable them to engage eectively
in markets” (World Bank 2001, 39). In the eld, the study of SHGs conducted
by the Indian feminist organization Nirantar, for example, shows that, despite
the ocial goal of women’s empowerment, the creation of SHGs in the states of
Andra Pradesh and Gujarat above all allowed a less costly way for international
banks to penetrate the rural credit market (Sharma et al. 2007).
Similarly, despite the ostensible desire to encourage “participation” by the
poor, and despite the emphasis placed on nancing community-based devel-
opment projects, many studies show that there has not been any real ques-
tioning of the top-down approach, wherein the needs and interests of women
and the poor are predetermined and imposed from above. As Halfon (2007)
emphasized with reference to international development agencies, “women do
not take power, it is given to them.” is observation is more compatible with
the top-down approaches in the Decade for Women than with the bottom-
up processes advocated by the DAWN feminists. Pereira’s analysis (2008) of
the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEED) imple-
mented between 1999 and 2007 by the Nigerian government illustrates this
point. Despite a new rhetoric on the empowerment of women, in reality the
national strategy consisted of “managing the status quo,” recycling the old
approaches to integrating women into the development process (armative
action, legislative change, literacy programs), without ever addressing the
structural factors that perpetuate domination or considering the many forms of
domination experienced by Nigerian women. For international development
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XIII
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
institutions, empowerment is not a long, bottom-up process of transformation
that is dicult to measure. Rather, it is a predetermined state or result to be
achieved. e indicators used to measure womens empowerment, such as, for
example, the UNDP’s Gender Empowerment Measure, or the “wealth” indica-
tors of access to water or the amount of food consumed in one household used
by the World Bank, do not communicate anything about the means employed
to attain these results, though these are precisely the means that constitute
empowerment (Agot 2008). e process of empowerment cannot be reduced
to standards, objectives, or measurements decided “from above” and applied
to all, as is the case with the Millennium Development Goals. e very essence
of empowerment is to leave the main stakeholders in the eld to dene the
goals and methods of action (Batliwala 2007).
e history of the word “empowerment” in the eld of development is
rooted in a philosophical vision that gives priority to the viewpoints of the
oppressed and in a radical critique of the vertical development model in the
1970s. Today, this same concept has become perfectly integrated with the rhet-
oric of the most inuential institutions in international development. e fem-
inists of the Global South, and the radical activists who popularized the term
in the 1980s, dene empowerment as a multifaceted process of transformation
from the bottom up. For them, it is a process that permits women and the
poor to gain awareness, individually or collectively, of the dynamics of domi-
nance that marginalize them, and to build up capacities to radically transform
inequitable economic, social, and political structures. As international devel-
opment institutions gradually coopted the term, starting in the 1990s with its
discourse on women, gender, and development, and then in the 2000s in the
predominant discourse on poverty reduction, empowerment slowly became
a vague and falsely consensual concept. It has come to assimilate power with
individual and economic decision-making, has de-politicized collective power
into something seemingly harmonious, and has been employed to legitimize
existing top-down policies and programs.
In light of the degree to which the word’s meaning, means of implementa-
tion, and goals have all shied, today many scholars are questioning its value
(Batliwala 2007, Cornwall and Brock 2005). Should we simply reject and
abandon it, and invent a new term to replace it? Or should we reinvest in it
and restore its original meaning? Many researchers and activists, particularly
feminists, have chosen the second option. For the feminists, it is important to
protest and resist the way in which empowerment has been neutralized and
thrown o track (Pereira 2008; Staudt, Rai, and Parpart 2003). Many argue
that the resistance must be local as well as global, and it must be part of a
larger protest against the neoliberal, patriarchal and neocolonial development
model that perpetuates and reinforces inequitable power relations. Resistance
has already begun in the eld. Around the world, women and feminists of
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XIV
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
the Global South are organizing associations, cooperatives, and national and
international political alliances to reduce poverty, social injustice, and envi-
ronmental degradation (Verschuur 2003,Blasco 2008), as well as the intersec-
tional oppressive eects of capitalism, racism, patriarchy and heteronormativ-
ity (Fischer 2005, Falquet 2007, Sardenberg 2008, Ferguson 2009, Bodur and
Franceschet 2002). While these empowerment initiatives may be quite varied
and are implemented in specic cultural contexts with varying degrees of suc-
cess, they all began with collective, grassroots action, engage in raising critical
consciousness among individuals about their conditions, and aim to trans-
form inequitable power relations. In this way they reconnect with the original
conception of empowerment and reject the individualist, de-politicized, verti-
cal, and “instrumental” denition of empowerment imposed by international
development organizations,
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Agot, Kawango. 2008. “Women, Culture and
HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Does
the Empowerment Discourse Leave Out?”
In Global Empowerment of Women, edited
by Carolyn M. Elliott, 287-302. New York:
Routledge.
Aslop, Ruth, Mette Bertelsen, and Jeremy
Holland. 2006. Empowerment in Practice:
From Analysis to Implementation. Washing-
ton, DC: World Bank.
Batliwala, Srilatha. 1993. Women’s Empower-
ment in South Asia: Concepts and Practices.
New Delhi: ASPBAE/FAO.
Batliwala, Srilatha. 2007 “Putting Power Back into
Empowerment.” openDemocracy, July 30.
http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/put-
ting_power_back_into_empowerment_0.
Bebbington, Anthony, David Lewis, Simon Bat-
terbury, Elizabeth Olson, and M. Shameem
Siddiqi. 2007. “Of Texts and Practices: Em-
powerment and Organizational Cultures in
World Bank-Funded Rural Development Pro-
grams.” Journal of Development Studies 43:
597-621.
Bendaña, Alejandro. 2007. “ONG et mouvements
sociaux.” In Genre, mouvements populaires
urbains et environnement, edited by Christine
Verschuur, 111-130. Paris: L’Harmattan.
Bisilliat, Jeanne. 2000. « Luttes féministes et
développement: une perspective historique. »
Pp. 19-29 in Le Genre: un outil nécessaire
introduction à une problématique, vol. 1,
edited by J. Bisilliat and C. Verschuur. Paris:
L’Harmattan.
Blasco, Claudine. 2008. “Résistances des
femmes des Suds à la mondialisation.” Attac
France, October 9. http://www.france.attac.
org/archives/spip.php?article8866.
Bissiliat, 2000
Bodur, Marella and Susan Franceschet. 2002.
“Movements, States, and Empowerment:
Women’s Mobilization in Chile and Turkey.”
In Rethinking Empowerment and Develop-
ment in a Global/Local World: Gendered Per-
spectives, edited by Jane Parpart, Shirin Rai
and Kathleen Staudt, 112-132. New York:
Routledge Press.
Cling, Jean-Pierre, Mireille Razafindrakoto, and
François Roubaud. 2002. Les Nouvelles
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XV
Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse
stratégies internationales de lutte contre la
pauvreté. Paris: Économica.
Cornwall, Andrea and Karen Brock. 2005. “Be-
yond Buzzwords: ‘Poverty Reduction,’ ‘Partic-
ipation,’ and ‘Empowerment’ in Development
Policy.” UNRISD 10.
Falquet, Jules. 2007. “Le mouvement féministe
en Amérique latine et aux Caraïbes. Défis et
espoirs face à la mondialisation néo-libérale,”
Actuel Marx 42:36-47.
Ferguson, Ann. 2009. “Empowerment, Develop-
ment and Women’s Liberation.” In The Po-
litical Interests of Gender Revisited: Redoing
Theory and Research with a Feminist Face,
edited by Anna G. Jónasdóttir and Kathleen
B. Jones, 85-103. New York: United Nations
University Press.
Fischer, P., Amalia E. 2005. “Les chemins com-
plexes de l’autonomie.” Nouvelles Questions
Féministes 24, 2: 62-85.
Freire, Paulo. 2005 (1970). The Pedagogy of the
Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman
Ramos. New York: Continuum. [Pédagogie
des opprimés suivi de Conscientisation et
révolution. Paris: François Maspero. 1974.]
Halfon, Saul. 2007. The Cairo Consensus: Demo-
graphic Surveys, Women’s Empowerment,
and Regime Change in Population Policy.
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Friedman, Jonathan. 1992. Empowerment: The
Politics of Alternative Development. Cam-
bridge, MA: Blackwell.
IFDA (International Foundation for Develop-
ment Alternatives). 1980. Building Blocks
for Alternative Development Strategies IFDA
Dossier 17. http://www.dhf.uu.se/ifda/rea-
derdocs/pdf/doss_17.pdf. [“Matériaux pour
d’autres stratégies de développement: Un
rapport sur l’état d’avancement du projet
Tiers système.” Dossier FIPAD 17.]
Kabeer, Naila. 1994. Reversed Realities: Gender
Hierarchies in Development Thought. London:
Verso.
León, Magdalena. 2003. “Le renforcement du
pouvoir des femmes et l’importance du
rapport entre genre et propriété.” In Gen-
re, pouvoirs et justice sociale, edited by
Christine Verschuur and Fenneke Reysoo,
29-36. Paris: Editions l’Harmattan.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 1988. “Under West-
ern Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial
Discourses.” Feminist Review 30: 61-88.
Moore, Mick. 2001. “Empowerment at Last?”
Journal of International Development 13,
3:321-329.
Moser, Caroline O. N. 1989. “Gender Planning in
the Third World: Meeting Practical and Stra-
tegic Gender Needs.” World Development 17,
11: 1799-1825.
Narayan, Deepa. 2002. Empowerment and Pov-
erty Reduction: A Source Book. Washington,
DC: World Bank. [Autonomisation et réduc-
tion de la pauvreté. Washington, DC: World
Bank, 2004.]
Narayan-Parker, Deepa. 2005. Measuring Em-
powerment: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives.
Washington, DC: World Bank.
Oxaal, Zoë and Sally Baden. 1997. Gender and
Empowerment: Definitions, Approaches and
Implications for Policy. Brighton, UK: Bridge,
Institute of Development Studies.
Parpart, Jane L. 2002. “Gender and Empower-
ment: New Thoughts, New Approaches.” In
The Companion to Development Studies, ed-
ited by Vandana Desai and Robert B. Potter,
338-341. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pereira, Charmaine. 2008. “Appropriating ‘Gen-
der’ and ‘Empowerment’: The Resignification
of Feminist Ideas in Nigeria’s Neoliberal Re-
form Program.” IDS Bulletin 39, no. 6: 42-50.
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
XVI
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès
Rowlands, Jo, 1995. “Empowerment examined,”
Development in Practice, 5:101-107.
Sánchez Néstor, Martha. 2005. “Construire no-
tre autonomie. Le mouvement des femmes
indiennes au Mexique.” Nouvelles Questions
Féministes 24, 2:50-64.
Sardenberg, Cecília M. B. 2008. “Liberal vs.
Liberating Empowerment: A Latin American
Feminist Perspective on Conceptualizing
Women’s Empowerment.” IDS Bulletin, 39,
6:18-27.
Sen, Gita and Caren Grown. 1987. Development,
Crises and Alternative Visions: Third World
Women’s Perspectives. New York: Monthly
Review Press.
Sharma, Jaya, Soma K. Parthasarathy, Archana
Dwivedi,. 2007. Examining Self Help Groups:
Empowerment, Poverty Alleviation, Educa-
tion, A Qualitative Study. New Delhi: Nirantar.
Simon, Barbara Levy. 1994. The Empowerment
Tradition in American Social Work: A History.
New York: Columbia University Press.
Solomon, Barbara Bryant. 1976. Black Empower-
ment: Social Work in Oppressed Communi-
ties. New York: Columbia University Press.
Staudt, Kathleen, Shirin M. Rai, and Jane
L. Parpart. 2003. “Concluding Thoughts on
(Em)powerment, Gender and Development.”
In Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and
Development in a Global/Local World, ed-
ited by Jane L. Parpart, Shirin M. Rai, and
Kathleen A. Staudt, 239-244. New York:
Routledge.
Tommasoli, Massimo. 2004. Le développement
participatif: analyse sociale et logiques de
planification. Paris: Karthala.
United Nations. 1995. Rapport de la quatrième
conférence mondiale sur les femmes: Beijing.
September 4-15. New York: United Nations.
Verschuur, Christine. 2003. “L’empowerment
des approches contrastées, études de cas
en Amérique latine.” In Genre, pouvoirs et
justice sociale, edited by Christine Verschuur
and Fenneke Reysoo, 235-250. Paris: Edi-
tions l’Harmattan.
Wise, Judith Bula. 2005. Empowerment Practice
with Families in Distress. New York: Columbia
University Press.
Wong, Kwok-Fu. 2003. “Empowerment as a Pan-
acea for Poverty – Old Wine in New Bottles?
Reflections on the World Bank’s Conception
of Power.” Progress in Development Stud-
ies 3, 4: 307-322.
World Bank. 2001. World Development Report
2000/2001: Attacking Poverty. New York:
Oxford University Press.
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
Document downloaded from www.cairn-int.info - - - 70.24.188.227 - 19/10/2015 17h07. © Armand Colin
... The existence of these issues within neoliberal empowerment discourse contrasts markedly with empowerment as initially conceived. Originating with the founding of the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era network (DAWN) in Bangalore in 1984, 'empowerment' was understood to require the breaking down of gender subordination and associated oppressive structures by prioritising points of view from the oppressed themselves (Sen and Grown, 1987: 22;Calvès, 2009). By contrast, neoliberalaligned institutions and organisations envision empowerment in terms far more consistent with its own ideological priorities than those associated with the breaking down of gender subordination, while invoking the prior assumption that the informal economy exists as a spontaneous response to state regulation (Boeri, 2018). ...
... In reality, systemic power imbalances, coupled with the result of the failure of the same neoliberal 'development' policies to produce outcomes recognisable as personal empowerment, force women into informal work (Boeri, 2018;Webb et al., 2013). Neoliberal empowerment discourse thus abandons social transformation in favour of upholding the status quo, focusing on efficiency, productivity and market-based activities (Calvès, 2009). Such abandonment reflects broader tendencies within neoliberalism, not least being the propensity to conflate class privilege and individual freedom (Boldeman, 2007;Harvey, 2007). ...
... Without and within broader relational contexts, entrepreneurial discourse loses its meaning as a form of empowerment. The difference is captured in comparing a 2002 World Bank development report against two subsequent publications on empowerment that adopted a more grassroots approach (Calvès, 2009). The World Bank report (2001: 39) frames empowerment in terms of contributions to economic growth, describing its empowerment goals in terms of building 'the assets of poor people to enable them to engage effectively in markets'. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article explores dominant entrepreneurship discourse and practice surrounding informal women home-based workers, and their relationship to goals of individual empowerment. We argue that conventional neoliberal entrepreneurship discourse conflates empowerment and performativity, linking the capacity of women to develop greater agency with their incorporation into an economic regime with predetermined roles, labelled ‘empowerment’. Applying a critical lens, we analyse the development discourse on entrepreneurship and economic performativity in these terms – looking to understand the characteristics of empowerment concerning home-based workers in Bangladesh working for a fair-trade organisation and a domestic garment supply chain. We argue that the conflation of empowerment and performativity serves the convenience of neoliberal ideology rather than the empowerment needs of those to whom such discourses are applied. To complement our critique, based on the empowerment literature, we develop a conceptual framework of empowerment and agency encompassing individual and collective agency, considering these in light of the relationship between performativity and social reproduction. Coupling a more nuanced understanding of empowerment to the critique of the entrepreneurial discourse, as applied to women home-based workers, provides a theoretical contribution to the empowerment and entrepreneurial discourse literature. JEL Codes: D63, J16, J4
... In that sense, the term 'empowerment' challenges existing power relationships in society, whereas disempowerment takes away the possibility to raise such challenges. For an overview of the origins and evolution of the term, seeCalvès (2009). ...
Book
Full-text available
The starting point of this book is in the decolonial visions of Vansina and Prah who hold that the old cultural traditions in Africa have been destroyed but that new African ways of interpreting the world are emerging. A key role in this is played by education. As Prah, Wolff, and others have argued, such education has to be based on African languages and African values. Using a quantitative comparative analysis, this study shows for the first time that maintaining former colonial languages as medium of instruction will become impossible to sustain. Over the next decade, African countries will have to move towards increased use of African languages. Over the years, the choice of which African languages to use has vexed researchers and policymakers. This study points to an innovative way out of that conundrum, using five principles. It demonstrates how all over the world, designed languages can and do serve speakers of several discerned languages. The book contains six brief case studies, showing how a choice of such designed languages can offer practical policy options in Africa. Using African languages in education will also bolster the new, decolonized cultural traditions that are already taking shape on the continent.
... In that sense, the term 'empowerment' challenges existing power relationships in society, whereas disempowerment takes away the possibility to raise such challenges. For an overview of the origins and evolution of the term, seeCalvès (2009). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The discussion on decolonising the mind and turning to African indigenous knowledge tends to construct a contradiction between the ‘colonial’ (bad) and the ‘decolonial’ (good), as well as between the ‘foreign’ (bad) and the ‘indigenous’ (good). However, independent African thinkers have never shied away from taking in elements from abroad into their thinking and have always tried to marry the best elements of indigenous and foreign insights. One therefore wonders if the discussion should not be framed differently: as an examination of which ideas can be seen as empowering, in terms of increasing African agency, and which ideas instead can be seen as disempowering, or inhibiting African agency. This chapter discusses a number of such ideas in two key related areas, the areas of culture and language. In the area of culture, it argues in favour of a view of cultures as value systems that serve as common points of reference to a people. It argues that with such a view and the methods of cross-cultural psychology it is possible in principle to chart new developments in the area of culture in Africa and to devise new policies taking those developments into account. In the area of language, the chapter attacks the idea that all 2,000 living languages counted in Africa need to be treated in the same way. It shows that this idea paralyzes the debate and proposes instead a distinction between ‘discerned’ and ‘designed’ languages. It proposes five principles that would enable increased use of a limited number of African languages in more and more domains.
... Akan tetapi, jika kita lihat perkembangan selanjutnya, manifesto lanjutan yang dirumuskan oleh para alumnus Cocoyoc dan banyak ilmuwan baru yang tergabung dalam IFDA "International Foundation for Development Alternatives" yang sistem ketiga atau "third system" tidak berdampak sama sekali meski mempengaruhi wacana ribuan ilmuwan di seluruh dunia (Friedmann, 1992). Fase ini merupakan fase di mana pemberdayaan telah diterima secara luas oleh agen-agen pembangunan internasional atau sering disebut fase "integrasi" ditandai dengan pergeseran dari "From Women's Empowerment" menjadi "to the Empowerment of the Poor" (Calvès, 2009). ...
Book
Apa pilihan dari model-model pemberdayaan masyarakat yang disampaikan dalam buku ini? Jelas kekuasaan kami anggap sebagai penyebab dan bukan hanya sekadar penghambat, sehingga restrukturisasi menjadi sangat penting. Apakah bekerja setelah kekuasaan terganti? Tidak. Target utama bukan penggantian personel tetapi lebih bagaimana mengganti sifat dari kekuasaan yang terbangun dari lokal, di mana kekuasaan adalah pelayan bagi masyarakat dan digunakan untuk pembelaan pada ketidakadilan. Sementara itu, orientasi nilai sekaligus pola gerakan kami menyarankan teman-teman yang akan mengadopsi model ini menjadi bagian integral dari gerakan sosialnya dan bukan sebagai pendamping saja. Pada akhirnya, tujuan utama dari model-model yang kami sampaikan di sini adalah untuk memperkuat posisi akar rumput agar mereka bisa sepenuhnya mengambil bagian dari gerakan politik yang mendeterminasi bentuk pengelolaan sumber daya apa pun yang masuk ke masyarakat.
... Akan tetapi, jika kita lihat perkembangan selanjutnya, manifesto lanjutan yang dirumuskan oleh para alumnus Cocoyoc dan banyak ilmuwan baru yang tergabung dalam IFDA "International Foundation for Development Alternatives" yang sistem ketiga atau "third system" tidak berdampak sama sekali meski mempengaruhi wacana ribuan ilmuwan di seluruh dunia (Friedmann, 1992). Fase ini merupakan fase di mana pemberdayaan telah diterima secara luas oleh agen-agen pembangunan internasional atau sering disebut fase "integrasi" ditandai dengan pergeseran dari "From Women's Empowerment" menjadi "to the Empowerment of the Poor" (Calvès, 2009). ...
Book
Full-text available
Buku ini merupakan model model pemberdayaan ekonomi untuk pedesaan. Buku merupakan hasil riset aksi sehingga model telah disimulasikan pada level prototipe. Pengembangan terus dilakukan hingga saat ini untuk memastikan kestabilan model. Dengan tujuan memperkaya khasanah pengembangan ekonomi pedesaan, buku ini menjadi referensi bagi kepala desa, pengelola BUMDESA, juga para pendamping dan penggiat pedesaan.
... For similar reasons to the introduction of the 'leisure time' into the production function, here too, a State intervention depends on free 'leisure' labor. Empowerment, as defined in its participatory approach, is an attempt to have individuals participate 'freely' (for 'free' as in 'it does not cost' and because they have liberty) in the life of society (Calvès, 2009). The main goal of the State intervention may be to have more participation from 'free' individuals as 'empowerment' has been shown to improve health (Le Grand, 2018;Wallerstein, 2006). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
In Health Technology Assessment (HTA), commonly used techniques apply piecewise comparisons of two or more alternatives, comparing costs and outcomes associated with each treatment. According to the definition by Robbins, who considers economics the study of ‘alternative uses’ of resources (Robbins, 1984, 1932), HTA can be considered a branch of health economics. However, we argue that this is only partly true. The definition of economics is also about ‘scarce resources’ and while HTA measures resources by their monetary value, it takes for granted that money is a measure of scarcity. It is, however, timely that (health) economics proposes other measures for the efficient allocation of scarce resources. In a time of climate change or fighting a pandemic, investment of (additional) resources is necessary and money is just a means to put resources to work. This research is about proposing a new metric for constraints faced by economies. The real constraint of monetary economies is inflation because it is an indicator of too much demand given resources (Kelton, 2020). Methods: This research builds a theoretical framework, grounded in economics, using both the self-fulfilling prophecies of growth (adapted to well-being) and the Grossman model to propose a new metric of efficient resource use, the Incremental Inflation Effectiveness-Ratio (IIER) (Evans et al., 1998; Grossman, 1972). Results: Results will describe the development of the new tool, IIER, from the self-fulfilling prophecy model: The IIER is a comparison of inflation given two alternatives, A and B, divided by the effect of the new intervention in terms of health given by . Discussion: In the context of health economics, this research allows us to consider the wider economic context and to bypass the commonly considered budget constraint when determining the value for money of new treatments.
Article
This paper explores community empowerment in tourism development in Nigeria through an analysis of the perceptions of key stakeholders. Community empowerment is essential to ensure local community members benefit from tourism development. The study uses a qualitative approach to evaluate the degree of local community participation and empowerment in tourism in South-West Nigeria. Findings suggest that when community members have a sense of their political agency, they feel empowered psychologically. Community empowerment was found to be experienced differently by different stakeholders within the communities—some were more positive than others. The variability of experience suggests the potential for some cross—institutional/project learning. Local Government Tourism Committees (LGTCs) can facilitate empowerment at the community level—should be supported, and their role cultivated, to address the dearth of meaningful community empowerment. This in turn will require Nigerian governance structures to be willing to devolve a degree of power and authority over decisions to these bodies and the communities they serve.
Article
Full-text available
The study aimed to examine the effect of organizational politics on the individual work performance of employees. To support the study, literature was reviewed and theories were identified and explained. It was carried out following research methodology in terms of research design, population, the locale of the study, research instruments, and statistical treatment of data. The study found that the organizational politics of the institution is at a moderate level and the individual work performance was also at a moderate level. It is further found that there is a significant correlation between organizational politics and individual work performance. Thus, it is concluded that organizational politics is a significant predictor of organizational performance. The study found that a moderate level of organizational politics affects individual work performance positively and therefore it confirms the finding of other studies that organizational politics is not inherently bad or negative.
Article
Full-text available
This article argues that, despite great diversity in uses of the term 'empowerment', it is possible to distinguish two basic approaches. 'Liberal empowerment' regards women's empowerment as an instrument for development priorities, whether poverty eradication or the building of democracy. Consistent with liberal ideals, the focus is on individual growth from an atomistic perspective - the rational action of social actors based on individual interests. It de-politicises the empowerment process by taking 'power' out of the equation. In 'liberating empowerment', power relations are central, Women's empowerment is regarded as the process by which women gain self-determination, is an instrument for eradicating patriarchy and is instrumental for social transformation, entailing women's liberation from patriarchal domination. 'Liberating empowerment' is consistent with a focus on women's organising, on collective action, without disregarding the importance of women's empowerment individually. Sustained by Latin American feminists, this is evident in different projects and programmes implemented locally
Article
This article focuses on processes involved in the Obasanjo administration's appropriation of feminist language and meanings in its economic empowerment and development strategy, the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS). This appropriation of progressive ideas takes apparently gender-neutral forms, through the presentation of the government's economic and development agenda as partitioned from political practice, as well as forms that are more specifically oriented to the terms 'gender' and 'empowerment'. On both tracks, appropriation involves the erasure of power in the production of altered meanings. The author argues that NEEDS works ideologically to manufacture hegemony and the illegitimacy of dissent with regard to the government's reform programme, In this context, the struggle to reclaim feminism in the pursuit of social and economic justice in Nigeria requires the production of more nuanced, feminist knowledge about the workings of power, including ways in which feminist conceptions of women's empowerment might be realised.
Article
Building our autonomy. The Indian Women’s movement in Mexico The struggles of indigenous women in Mexico constitute a long and difficult rupture with the conditions of racist and sexist oppression experienced by their mothers and grandmothers. Similar ruptures are necessary within their communities, with their male peers within indigenous organizations who frequently oppose female self-organization and voice. Furthermore, indigenous women have tried to build alliances with mestizas (women of indigenous and European decent), but this has sometimes resulted in conflict as many women’s organizations and women in these movements still hold racist views. Finally, lesbianism is a difficult and polemic subject within indigenous women’s organizations and communities. Thus, the plight of indigenous women, and particularly those within the Coordinación Nacional de Mujeres indígenas, calls for a fight on several fronts and at the same time demands political action characterized by the search for alliances beyond divisions of race and class.