Journalism and gender equality

12. What does the notion of Gender and Empowerment refer to? /

The use of the term was developed in the USA as part of the recognition of the rights of women, who, in order to be able to exercise their autonomy, had to learn how.

On the political level, Empowerment aims to enable individuals to re-appropriate their lives, to get out of the role of passive victim faced with lacking capacity to act linked to their living context. Far from power games and order-control management, empowerment aims at everyone’s autonomy, in line with the principles of trust, cooperation and committed responsibility.

Principles of Psychological Empowerment for Gretchen Spreitzer.

A Californian academic, Gretchen has worked for many years on the subject of empowerment at work, and is involved in the American movement for positive organisations.  She holds that Empowerment is the result of a motivational construction based on four levers.

Sense. I have been able to build, identify and develop a sense at work that allows me to make the goals and objectives of a job (work station, mission or activity to be carried out) coincide or converge with my ideals and internal standards: beliefs, hopes, values, behaviours.

Competence or personal effectiveness.I have a belief in my ability to carry out the actions or tasks necessary for my mission.

Self-determination. The feeling that I will be able to initiate or regulate actions, that I am autonomous in the implementation or continuation of work-related processes: I can take decisions on tools, methods, techniques, effort required.

Impact. The perception of the degree to which I can influence the results of my action (through strategy, intervention tactics, management of actions). The perception of the control I can provide over what is happening.

The power to change one’s life by acting with others.

If there is one word that is popular in gender discourse, it isempowerment. It refers to the power that the individual can have over his or her own life, the development of his or her identity as well as his or her link to the collective.

This concept and word appeared in the ’00s. It translates “Power to Act”, the “Citizen Empowerment”, a mixture of capacity and incentive.

It can be more simply translated as “Developing the power to act” or even “Empowerisation”.

This concept is articulated in two dimensions: that of power, which is the root of the word, and that of the learning process to access it.

Another kind of power

Empowerment does not envisage domination, i.e. power over the other, but focuses on other kinds of power: the power of, the power with, the inner power to realise oneself.  A way of thinking about power in terms of the ability to make choices. Empowerment is linked to the process whereby those who are denied the possibility of making choices can acquire it.

It’s kind of a different kind of power. Another philosophy on the notion of power.

This concept does not seek to empower women to dominate men. On the contrary, it seeks synergy between the two sexes to achieve something richer and, above all, to achieve a more just situation. From this point of view, a distinction is made between four types of power.

“power over”: the notion assumes that power exists only in limited quantities: the more you have, the less I have. If I exercise authority over you, giving you more power means I will lose it. This power is based on mutually exclusive relations of domination/subordination; it is power over someone.

“power of”: a power that is creative and empowers people to do things. It is the very essence of the individual aspect of power (empowerment) when one has succeeded in solving a problem, understanding how something works or acquiring new skills. The notion therefore refers to intellectual (knowledge and know-how) and economic (assets) capacities; to access to and control over the means of production  and finally to be in a position to use the means of production;

“power with”: this is social and political power: like solidarity, organising oneself to negotiate, to defend one’s rights, lobbying. Collectively, people feel empowered when they organise and unite in pursuit of a common goal or when they share a common vision.

“Inner power”: Knowing that self-image, self-confidence, self-esteem, identity, (religious) conviction and psychological strength (knowing how to be) are key elements for success. The spiritual strength and uniqueness of each makes it truly human. It is based on self-acceptance and respect for others.

Overcoming obstacles that obstruct paths

Empowerment is a three-pronged concept: resources, action and performance.

Resources: form the conditions under which choices are made.

They rely on economic resources: land, equipment, finance, working capital,
etc.   Human resources, which include knowledge, skills, creativity, imagination, etc.

Action: at the heart of the process by which choices are made.

The ability to define objectives and act on them.

Action is the relationship with the “power of”: the ability of people to define their
life choices and pursue their own goals, even if they have to confront or face opposition from others.

Performance: these are the possibilities, the potential that people have to lead the life they desire.

There are indicators to measure the impact of empowerment:

  • women’s  emancipation: based on faith in girls’ education,
  • the sharing of roles and decision-making within couples, for example. 

 Financial autonomy, control of women’s income, work before marriage, controlled income before marriage, small age difference between spouses, choice of husband
 are evidence of empowerment.

Empowerment actors push their interlocutors to shape their way of envisaging change, to take action, to set themselves in motion.

They work “with” them and not “on” them.

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