Questioning Empowerment: Working with Women in Honduras

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Oxfam, Jan 1, 1997 - Social Science - 180 pages
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"Empowerment" is a popular buzz-word used by many diverse development organizations - but what does it really mean? Jo Rowlands examines the various meanings given to the concept of empowerment, and the many ways in which power can be expressed, in personal relationships and in wider social interactions. The book examines two development projects in Honduras which were both concerned mainly with women, comparing their different approaches, and assessing the extent to which the women involved were empowered as a result of their experiences. empowerment is possible for women without major changes in social attitudes.

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Page 10 - Second, and more important is it not the supreme and most insidious exercise of power to prevent people, to whatever degree, from having grievances by shaping their perceptions, cognitions and preferences in such a way that they accept their role in the existing order of things, either because they can see or imagine no alternative to it, or because they see it as natural and unchangeable, or because they value it as divinely ordained and beneficial?
Page 17 - ... in terms of the capacity of women to increase their own self-reliance and internal strength. This is identified as the right to determine choices in life and to influence the direction of change, through the ability to gain control over crucial material and non-material resources.
Page 180 - UK. fax: +44 (0) 1865 313925 e-mail: We welcome readers' comments on any aspects of Oxfam publications. Please write to the editorial team at: Oxfam Publications 274 Banbury Road Oxford 0X2 7DZ, UK.
Page 15 - McWhirter (1994) defined empowerment as "the process by which people, organizations, or groups who are powerless or marginalized (a) become aware of the power dynamics at work in their life context, (b) develop the skills and capacity for gaining some reasonable control over their lives, (c) which they exercise, (d) without infringing on the rights of others, and (e) which coincides with actively supporting the empowerment of others in their community
Page 147 - At a less abstract level patriarchy is composed of six structures: the patriarchal mode of production. patriarchal relations in paid work. patriarchal relations in the state. male violence. patriarchal relations in sexuality. and patriarchal relations in cultural institutions.
Page 27 - ... (Programme of Action of the Government of India National Policy on Education [1986]). In other words empowerment includes both individual change and collective action. What is meant is enabling women collectively to take control of their own lives to set their own agendas, to organise to help each other and make demands on the state for support and on society itself for change. With the collective empowerment of women the direction and processes of development would also be shifted to respond...
Page 1 - The aims should be to empower ordinary people to take charge of their lives, to make communities more responsible for their development, and to make governments listen to their people.
Page 13 - ... the spiritual strength and uniqueness that resides in each one of us and makes us truly human. Its basis is self-acceptance and self-respect which extend, in turn, to respect for and acceptance of others as equals (Rowlands, 1997: 13).
Page 14 - ... people, even when they use the language of participation and empowerment in their projects (Pimbert and Pretty, 1994). True empowerment has to come from within. A generic interpretation of empowerment would be a 'process by which people become aware of their own interests and how these relate to those of others, in order both to participate from a position of greater strength in decision making and actually influence such decisions
Page 16 - any notion of empowerment being given by one group to another hides an attempt to keep control'.

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About the author (1997)

Jo Rowlands is Senior Global Programme Adviser on governance and institutional accountability for Oxfam GB.

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