Debating empowerment

In: Daniel In The News

4 Dec 2010

Ekaterina Mitiaev, a consultant to the Hunger Project, has summarised my critique of cultural approaches to development in an article in the Wecoemp (women economic empowerment) review (p18-20). She is sympathetic towards my critique and critical of narrow conceptions of empowerment.

For Mitiaev the notion of empowerment should be defined in broader terms:

“The Hunger Project (THP) firmly believes that empowering women is an essential element to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. At the same time, The Hunger Project does not view women as a group of “beneficiaries”, who need special assistance or “participants”, who should be helped to look after their household. For THP, the empowerment of women goes way beyond the provision of small loans and basic trainings.

“The empowerment of women is a complex process of self-realisation, self-actualisation and mobilisation to demand change.”

This conception of empowerment is spelt out in more detail in an article by Mitiaev in the MDG Review (on the Millennium Development Goals).

I remain sceptical of the notion of empowerment even in its more ambitious form. I do not see how an external agency can give power to others. Power has to come from the actors themselves.

This is clearly an important debate that should be pursued in more detail.