The concept of empowerment has been studied since the 70’s.
It advocates, in connection with sustainable development, the self-management
of political, economical and social resources as a means to decrease
poverty. Despite the fact that the word "empowerment"
may be interpreted in different ways – due to the fact that
it permeates several subjects, making use of "individual psychology,
anthropology, political science and economy"- it does not refer
to an individual emancipation process, but to the acquisition of
a collective awareness concerning social dependency and political
domination. In fact, this concept makes it possible to create a
bridge between the local and the global, placing the individual
beyond his/her family and community, and linking them to wider notions
at the macro level and to possible courses of action.
concept goes beyond notions of democracy, of human rights
and of participation to include enabling people to understand
the reality of their environment (social, political, economical,
ecological and cultural), to reflect on the factors that shape
their environment and to take steps to effect changes to improve
their situation." (1)
this sense, it is important to understand that the empowerment concept
goes beyond participation assessed sometimes through the
mere presence in meetings. It is a systemic concept, which recognizes
that if there is now more power in the decision-making process of
those who, before, had no power whatsoever, there is also an unavoidable
transformation in the system. This transformation is usually taken
for granted under the form of simple participation (which may be
confused with assent), while empowerment implies in a critical and
active participation that will not be confused with mere "attendance"
at a decision-making process.
effective empowerment process must involve both individual and collective
Thus, an effective empowerment process will have four levels
cognitive, where what matters is awareness of reality and
of the reasons for male domination;
2. psychological, linked to self-esteem and self-confidence,
essential elements for decision-making;
3. economical, related to the existence of earning
activities capable of generating enough income to insure a certain
degree of economical independence;
4. political, involving the ability to analyze
and mobilize the social environment in order to produce changes
an effective empowerment process must include both both individual
and collective components. Only then it will be possible to develop
the necessary abilities to achieve social transformations.
1) "SINGH, Naresh, TITI, Vangile (Eds.). Empowerment: towards
sustainable development. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1995, p.13."
2)"LEÓN Magdalena. El empoderamiento en la teoria e
práctica del feminismo. In: LEÓN, Magdalena. Poder
y empoderamiento de las mujeres. Santafé de Bogotá:
Tercer Mundo y UN Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, 1997."
3) "STROMQUIST, Nelly. La búsqueda del empoderamiento:
em qué puede contribuir el campo de la educación.
In: LEÓN, Magdalena (Comp.). Poder y empoderamento de las
mujeres. Santafé de Bogotá, Colômbia: TM Editores,