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women's empowerment

People Power: What Do We Know About Empowered Citizens and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)

Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.

Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?

These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’

Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.

From ‘baby-making machines’ to Active Citizens: How Women are Getting Organized in Nepal (case study for comments)

Duncan Green's picture

Next up in this series of case studies in Active Citizenship is some inspiring work on women’s empowerment in Nepal. I would welcome comments on the full study: Raising Her Voice Nepal final draft 4 July

‘I was just a baby making machine’; ‘Before the project, I only ever spoke to animals and children’

‘This is the first time I have been called by my own name.’
[Quotes from women interviewed by study tour, March 2011]

While gender inequality remains extreme in Nepal, Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme on women’s empowerment is contributing to and reinforcing an ongoing long-term shift in gender norms, driven by a combination of urbanization, migration, rising literacy and access to media, all of which have combined to erode women’s traditional isolation.

During the past 20 years, Nepal has also undergone major political changes. It has moved from being an absolute monarchy to a republic, from having an authoritarian regime to a more participatory governance system, from a religious state to a secular one, and from a centralized system to a more decentralized one.
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CIPE Global
20 Empowered Women that You Should Be Following on Twitter

“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus – we’ve all heard that before.  It’s no secret that the men and women are treated differently, but when it comes down to the heart of the matter, women are just as capable of success, if not more so, than their galactic counterparts.

With International Women’s Day fast approaching, CIPE is highlighting ways to help the movement for women’s empowerment. CIPE’s programs approach women’s empowerment through institutional reform, economic and political empowerment, and working with partner organizations to look beyond financial assistance – by helping women build leadership and business skills, CIPE focuses on preparing women for participation, whether they’re running a business, advocating legislative reforms, or simply making the world a better place for taking care of their families.” READ MORE

A Tiny Spark Ignites a Powerful Blaze

Sabina Panth's picture

The idea of starting a grassroots women-to-women communication campaign dawned on me when I realized the power of aesthetic expressions in capturing the intangible impact of development interventions.   The beneficiaries of the Women’s Empowerment Project in rural Nepal used oral lore to articulate their impressions and experiences of their participation in the program through songs, dance and poetry.  And because the program interventions were rooted in basic literacy training, I helped translate the oral lore into written documents through the medium of a newsletter, where the program beneficiaries themselves became the suppliers and readers of the contents.  The newsletter proceeded to serve as a powerful grassroots network that brought together two- hundred and forty local organizations partners of the program and their hundred and twenty thousand clients across the country for horizontal learning.  The newsletter also proved to be an effective vertical medium for the program management to assess the impact of the program interventions beyond its set targets and indicators.

And the Ladies Cleared the Drinking Clubs…

Sabina Panth's picture

The program was massive.  It catered to a hundred and twenty thousand clients, scattered across the mountain and plain terrains of the country, along 21 districts, from the east-end to the west-end borders.  It required working with two hundred and forty local organizations and four thousand community groups.  And it entailed a multi-sectoral approach, combining basic literacy with business training and legal rights and advocacy campaigns. And the client themselves took charge in running these programs. The USAID-funded Women Empowerment Program in Nepal was the largest social development program during 1997-2001.