Conceptions of Women's Empowerment
Conceptions of empowerment and change, encompassing substantive empirical as well as conceptual work on measuring empowerment and change in women’s lives and contextualising meanings and practices of empowerment in our different regions.
Projects under this theme include:
- 3G: 3 Generations of Women
- Changing Times, Changing Lives: Women's Empowerment through the Generations in Bahia, Brazil
- Conceptualising Empowerment: A Look at Public Policy for Women in Brazil
- Conceptualising Empowerment in Global Spaces and the Shaping of International Policies and Practice about Women
- Discourses on Women's Empowerment in Sierra Leone
- Exploring new Mediums for Understanding Empowerment and Reaching a Wider Audience
- Interrogating Policy Discourses and Practice on Women's Empowerment in Ghana
- National Discourses on Women's Empowerment: Enabling or Constraining Women's Choices
- Ana el Hekkaya (I am the Story) (formerly Qalet el-Rawiyeh)
- Real World Scheme
- Talking Empowerment in Plain Arabic
- Tracing and Measuring Empowerment and Change in Women's Lives
- Tracking Changes in Conceptions of Empowerment in Nigeria
Project Coordinator: Tessa Lewin
Project Description: 3G Three Generations of Women, is an interactive multimedia project that attempts to move beyond the media stereotypes and statistics about women, and look at their real lives. We photograph and interview three different generations of women within one family about aspects of their experience, growing up, learning, happiness, love, and more. We hope that this will give people some sense of the changes that have happened in the lives of these women over the past few decades.
Researchers: Cecilia Sardenberg (coordinator), Fernanda Capibaribe (co-coordinator), Carolina Santana (co-coordinator)
Project Description: The purpose of this study is to identify and analyse changes in women's lives in Salvador, Bahia over the last three generations, and how these changes relate to processes of women's empowerment.
The project began in July 2007 and involves working with a panel of 400 women from different generations living in the Plataforma region of Bahia, Brazil. Young girls from the region and university students have been trained to use media equipment to interview their mothers and grandmothers on how life has changed in the region.
'Looking with the Eyes of the Soul', report from the photography course for the interns working on the project.
Photography Exhibition from the project on Youtube
Family, Households and Women's Empowerment in Bahia, Brazil, Through the Generations: Continuities or Change?, IDS Bulletin 41.2: 88-96, Cecilia Sardenberg
‘Tempos de Mudança, Vidas em Mutação: O Empoderamento de Mulheres na Bahia Através das Gerações’, paper presented to the Fazendo Gênero 8 International Conference, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, UFSC, August, Cecilia Sardenberg, Fernanda Capibaribe and Carolina Souza
Researcher: Márcia S. Macêdo
Project Description: This Project aims to identify and analyse conceptualisations of empowerment in Brazil underlying public policies for women. The project looks, in particular, at the Pro Gender Equality Programme (Programa Pró-Eqüidade de Gênero) that is being implemented by the Secretariat for Public Policies for Women. Besides taking part in meetings and activities related to the Programme, we have also carried out a case study on one of the member organisations.
Conceptualising Empowerment in Global Spaces and the Shaping of International Policies and Practice about Women
Project Coordinators: Rosalind Eyben and Andrea Cornwall
Project Description: This project explores the meanings and debates around women’s empowerment within and among sets of actors with a global reach, and how they are shaping values, ideas and policy actions (or absence of actions) on women’s empowerment.
Conceptualising Empowerment Conference, February 2008
Lead Researcher: Hussainatu Abdullah
Project Description: Pre-war discourses of empowerment which were mainly around issues of development have now changed, in this post-war era, to include issues of gender equality, participation and voice, among others – this project will track these changes in relations to women’s conceptions of empowerment during this period.
'The Meaning and Practice of Women's Empowerment in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone', Hussaina Abdullah and Aisha Ibrahim, Development, 53: 259-266
Stories of Change Video Documentary: Stories of Change is a video documentary that travels through different regions of Bangladesh and through different generations by following the narratives of five women ranging from a 16 year old cricketer to a 60 year old activist. The film depicts the lives and struggles of these women as a part of the efforts to make visible the trajectories of change experienced in the lives of Bangladeshi women.
Digital Stories: Pathways South Asia used digital storytelling to document the experiences of growth and transformation in women's lives from their own perspectives, in their own words and voices. The workshops the team held in Dhaka and Chittagong enabled participants to make a 3-4 minute multimedia presentation by themselves, providing moving testimonies of individual lives and the contexts in which empowerment/disempowerment is experienced.
Lara Worcester Masters Thesis on 'Women's Empowerment made Visual: Digital Storytelling at Pathways Research Consortium',
Stories of Change Writing Project: Pathways South Asia used Pathways research materials to inspire fiction as a way of sharing the programme's findings with a broader and more diverse audience. At a writing workshop facilitated by poet-writer, Shamim Azad, writers were introduced to the craft of creating stories from research materials, from which the best stories were published in a book. This is part of an inter-hub project in which Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt are also participating.
Links: About Ogni O Jol (Fire and Water) Stories of Change book on Nymphia's Blog site.
Lead Researchers: Takyiwaa Manuh and Nana Akua Anyidoho
Project Description: This project involves looking at policy texts of organisations (civil society, donor agencies and government) dealing with women's issues to see what kind of empowerment is present in the texts. What ideas do they have? How are they conceptualised? What strategies do they use to bring about empowerment?
'Discourses on Women's Empowerment in Ghana', Nana Akua Anyidoho and Takyiwaa Manuh, Development, 53: 267-273
Researchers: Firdous Azim, Sohela Nazneen, Maheen Sultan and Naomi Hossain
Project Description: The research project will seek to compare and contrast conceptualisations on women's empowerment in the development area, women's organisations and in cultural spheres such as the media and religion. It will be working closely with the research being conducted by Firdous Azim under the theme of changing narratives of sexuality. These differing concepts will be defined and analysed while trying to establish how one has influenced the other. The preliminary findings will be presented back to the three groups and the expected differences between them will be used as a means of challenging the prevalent thinking and understanding better why the different communities have differences in their thinking.
'National Discourses on Women's Empowerment in Bangladesh: Enabling or Constraining Women's Choices?', Development 53: 239-246, Sohela Nazneen, Maheen Sultan and Naomi Hossain
Lead Researcher: Mona Ibrahim Aly
Project Description: To enhance the empowerment of Arab women through a rereading and rewriting of traditional representations of their roles, there is a dire need for revisiting popular culture and deconstructing traditional and negative concepts, attitudes and ideas about women prevalent among the larger portions of the society. It becomes imperative for us to produce cultural material that counters stereotypical representations of women, and disseminate gender-sensitive images of women in popular culture. Writing workshops focusing on analysing, critiquing and recreating traditional Arab folklore (1001 Nights, Aladdin, etc.) through a gender-sensitive lens were held in Palestine, Sudan and Egypt. The resulting stories (either originals or rewrites of traditional tales) were then used in storytelling performances and have provided the basis for a forthcoming animation short.
For Phase II of our research we have developed this project further to provide training and awareness activities with journalists, writers, bloggers and poets. The aim is to build capacity with youth and popular culture producers to disseminate and spread out gender-sensitive productions, through public performances and publications. We have also been working with writers in workshops in Egypt and Ghana (with another planned for Bangladesh), aiming to work with them to produce powerful stories from our research which are often better able to convey the complexities of empowerment and women's lived experiences.
'Empowering Women through Fairytales and Folk Stories', IDS News
'Women and Memory: I am the Story', extracts from a performance held on 15 June 2008, Open Democracy
The ‘Real World’ scheme is a collaboration set up in 2008
between Pathways and Screen South (UK Film Council).
It links talented young documentary filmmakers with
academics from the Pathways consortium to collaborate on a series of shorts broadly exploring concepts around women’s empowerment.
Thorns and Silk, women working in non-traditional jobs
Director: Paulina Tervo (Palestine)
Thorns and Silk shows four women in Palestine who are doing jobs that many regard as a male preserve, negotiating empowerment in their everyday lives in a context dominated by the experience of the Israeli occupation.
Link to films
A Vida Politica
Director: Kat Mansoor (Brazil)
This film looks at activism Brazilian-style through the eyes of four women engaged in struggles for abortion rights, political representation, sex worker rights and racial empowerment.
Link to films
Khul’, Divorce in Egypt
Director: Lucy Bennett
Khul’, Divorce in Egypt focuses on the experiences of women who are going (or who have gone) through the Khul divorce process in Egypt. Khul is a type of nofault
divorce, whereby women forgo their financial rights in order to end their (often abusive) marriages.
Link to film
Lead Researcher: Hania Sholkamy
Project Description: For ideas to have meaning and impact they have to have currency and circulation. The language of empowerment in Arab countries is English; it is the language of elites and the language of the west. There is no reason not to be expressing the ideals and debates on women’s empowerment in plain Arabic. There is little or no opportunity to do so. This project aims to create the opportunity for Arabic speakers to set an agenda of priorities in a language that they can use to communicate and give a wider currency to their ideas. If, as has been often noted, women’s empowerment is a cause without a following and a message without an audience, then there is an obvious need to talk and tackle women’s empowerment and develop the coherence and capacity to do so in Arabic. The conflation between Arabic and Islam has focused researchers on religion as the equivalent of language. This project is running a series of workshops held in plain Arabic to discuss the agendas of women’s empowerment and the flows that influence, set, shape, critique and communicate them.
By fostering the development of a lexicon that allows for communication on empowerment in Arabic, outputs of other research can be clearly conceptualised and conveyed in the Middle East. Such work broadens the reach Pathways research as well as the communications capacity for those working on empowerment issues, policy creation, and development, and the public at large, in general in the region.
'Power, Politics and Development in the Arab Context: Or how can Rearing Chicks Change Patriarchy?', Hania Sholkamy, Development, 53.2: 254-258, 2010
Lead Researcher: Eileen Kuttab
Project Description: We analyse the ideological and structural transformation of the concept of “empowerment of women” as applied within development paradigms and policies in Palestinian NGOs in general, focusing on women’s organisations in particular and on locally recognised empowered women.
The adoption of the concept by the Palestinian organisations including women’s civil society organisations is not an isolated phenomenon, but should be viewed in the framework of the global context where shift from state control to market control assisted by increasing intervention from civil society is the ideal type of neo-liberal paradigm. This project will try to present an overview of how this concept has been constructed and deconstructed in the local Palestinian experience through different case studies of NGOs and of locally empowered ordinary women.
'Empowerment as Resistance: Conceptualizing Palestinian Women's Empowerment', Eileen Kuttab, Development, 53.2: 247-253
Lead Researcher: Charmaine Pereira
Project Description: This project examines the discourses of empowerment
used by specific actors, particularly in relation to
understandings of women’s disempowerment, and
explores the effects of these discourses on efforts to bring
about gender equality.