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Human Empowerment Essay

Women's empowerment has become a significant topic of discussion in development and economics. It can also point to the approaches regarding other trivialized genders in a particular political or social context.

Women's economic empowerment refers to the ability for women to enjoy their right to control and benefit from resources, assets, income and their own time, as well as the ability to manage risk and improve their economic status and well being.[1]

While often interchangeably used, the more comprehensive concept of gender empowerment refers to people of any gender, stressing the distinction between biological and gender as a role. It thereby also refers to other marginalized genders in a particular political or social context.

Methods which help to empower women[edit]

Land rights offer a key way to economically empower women, giving them the confidence they need to tackle gender inequalities. Often, women in developing and underdeveloped nations are legally restricted from their land on the sole basis of gender. Having a right to their land gives women a sort of bargaining power that they wouldn't normally have; in turn, they gain the ability to assert themselves in various aspects of their life, both in and outside of the home. In rural areas, women are not at all supported for education.

When women has monetary power it is a way for others to see them as equal members of society. Through this, they achieve more self-respect and confidence by their contributions to their communities. Simply including women as a part of a community can have sweeping positive effects. In a study conducted by Bina Agarwal, women were given a place in a forest conservation group. This drove up the efficiency of the group, and the women gained self-esteem while others, including men, viewed them with more respect.[2]

Participation, which can be seen and gained in a variety of ways, has been argued to be the most beneficial form of gender empowerment. Political participation, be it the ability to vote and voice opinions, or the ability to run for office with a fair chance of being elected, plays a huge role in the empowerment of women.[3] However, participation is not limited to the realm of politics. It can include participation in the household, in schools, and the ability to make choices for oneself. It can be said that this latter participation need to be achieved before one can move onto broader political participation.[4] When women have the agency to do what they want, a higher equality between men and women is established.

It is argued that microcredit also offers a way to provide empowerment for women.[5] There are many Governments, organizations, and individuals which support women financially. They hope that lending money and credit allows women to function in business and society, which in turn empowers them to do more in their communities. One of the primary goals in the foundation of microfinance was women empowerment. Loans with low interest rates are given to women in developing communities in hopes that they can start a small business and provide for their families.[6] It should be said, however, that the success and efficiency of microcredit and microloans is controversial and constantly debated.[7]

The role of education[edit]

Improving education for women helps raise their levels of health and nutrition and reduces fertility rates.[8] Education increases "people's self- confidence and enables them to find better jobs, engage in public debate and make demands on government for health care, social security and other entitlements".[8] In particular, education empowers women to make choices that improve their own and their children's health and chances of survival.[9][8] Education helps to prevent and contain disease, and is an essential element of efforts to reduce malnutrition. Further, education empowers women to make choices that improve their welfare, including marrying later and having fewer children. Crucially, education also increases women's awareness of their human rights their confidence and their actual ability to assert those rights.[10]

Despite significant improvements in recent decades, education is not universally available and gender inequalities persist. A major concern in many countries is not only limited numbers of girls going to school, but also limited educational pathways for those that step into the classroom. This includes, more specifically, how to address the lower participation and learning achievement of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.[11]

The Internet as a tool of empowerment[edit]

The growing access of the web in the late 20th century has allowed women to empower themselves by using various tools on the Internet. With the introduction of the World Wide Web, women have begun to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for online activism.[12] Through online activism, women are able to empower themselves by organizing campaigns and voicing their opinions for equality rights without feeling oppressed by members of society.[13] For example, on May 29, 2013, an online campaign started by 100 female advocates forced the leading social networking website, Facebook, to take down various pages that spread hatred about women.[14]

In recent years, blogging has also become a powerful tool for the educational empowerment of women. According to a study done by the University of California, Los Angeles, medical patients who read and write about their disease are often in a much happier mood and more knowledgeable than those who do not.[15] By reading others' experiences, patients can better educate themselves and apply strategies that their fellow bloggers suggest.[15]

With the easy accessibility and affordability of e-learning (electronic learning), women can now study from the comfort of their homes.[16] By empowering themselves educationally through new technologies like e-learning, women are also learning new skills that will come in handy in today's advancing globalized world.


Many of the barriers to women's empowerment and equity lie ingrained in cultural norms. Many women feel these pressures, while others have become accustomed to being treated inferior to men.[17] Even if men, legislators, NGOs, etc. are aware of the benefits women's empowerment and participation can have, many are scared of disrupting the status quo and continue to let societal norms get in the way of development.[5]

Research shows that the increasing access to the internet can also result in an increased exploitation of women.[12] Releasing personal information on websites has put some women's personal safety at risk. In 2010, Working to Halt Online Abuse stated that 73% of women were victimized through such sites. Types of victimization include cyber stalking, harassment, online pornography, and flaming.[18]Sexual harassment in particular is a large barrier for women in the workplace. It appears in almost all industries, but is most notable in the following: business, trade, banking and finance, sales and marketing, hospitality, civil service, and education, lecturing and teaching.[19] According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), sexual harassment is a clear form of gender discrimination based on sex, a manifestation of unequal power relations between men and women. Furthermore, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is urging for increased measures of protection for women against sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. 54% (272) had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment. 79% of the victims are women; 21% were men.[19]

Recent studies also show that women face more barriers in the workplace than do men. Gender-related barriers involve sexual harassment, unfair hiring practices, career progression, and unequal pay where women are paid less than men are for performing the same job.[20] When taking the median earnings of men and women who worked full-time, year-round, government data from 2014 showed that women made $0.79 for every dollar a man earned. The average earnings for working mothers came out to even less—$0.71 for every dollar a father made, according to a 2014 study conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Children. While much of the public discussion of the "wage gap" has focused around women getting equal pay for the same work as their male peers, many women struggle with what is called the "pregnancy penalty". The main problem is that it is difficult to measure, but some experts say that the possibility of having a baby can be enough for employers to push women back from their line.[21] Therefore, women are put in a position where they need to make the decision of whether to maintain in the workforce or have children. This problem has sparked the debate over maternity leave in the United States.

However, despite the struggle for equal pay in the United States, the tech industry[clarification needed] has made progress in helping to encourage equal pay across gender. In March 2016, tech career website Dice released a study of more than 16,000 tech professionals that found that when you compare equivalent education, experience and position, there is no pay gap—and hasn't been for the last six years.[21] This new industry is paving a way for other companies to do the same. However, this industry also struggles to employ women in executive positions. This is partially due to the barrier of sexual harassment and pregnancy that was aforementioned.

Such barriers make it difficult for women to advance in their workplace or receive fair compensation for the work they provide.


Women empowerment can be measured through the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), which shows women's participation in a given nation, both politically and economically. GEM is calculated by tracking "the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female profession and technical workers; and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence".[3] It then ranks countries given this information. Other measures that take into account the importance of female participation and equality include: the Gender Parity Index and the Gender-related Development Index (GDI).[3]

Importance of women's empowerment in societies[edit]

Entire nations, businesses, communities and groups can benefit from the implementation of programs and policies that adopt the notion of women empowerment.[3] Empowerment of women is a necessity for the very development of a society, since it enhances both the quality and the quantity of human resources available for development.[22]Empowerment is one of the main procedural concerns when addressing human rights and development. The Human Development and Capabilities Approach, the Millennium Development Goals, and other credible approaches/goals point to empowerment and participation as a necessary step if a country is to overcome the obstacles associated with poverty and development.[23]

See also[edit]



  1. ^Oxfam (Forthcoming), "Women's Economic Empowerment Conceptual Framework"
  2. ^Argawal, Bina (2010). Gender and Green Governance: The Political Economy of Women's Presence Within and Beyond Community Forestry(PDF). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956968-7. 
  3. ^ abcdDeneulin, Séverine; Lila Shahani, eds. (2009). "An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency"(PDF). Sterling, VA: Earthscan. 
  4. ^Nussbaum, Martha C. (2000). "Introduction". Women and Human Development: The Capabilities to Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–33. ISBN 9781139459358. 
  5. ^ ab"World Survey on the Role of Women In Development". Women's Control over Economic Resources and Access to Financial Resources, including Microfinance(PDF) (Report). New York: United Nations. 2009. 
  6. ^Bateman, Milford (2010). Why Doesn't Microfinance Work?: The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism. New York: Zed Books. ISBN 978-1848133327. 
  7. ^Parmar, A. (2003). "Microcredit, Empowerment, and Agency: Re-evaluating the Discourse". Canadian Journal of Development Studies. 24 (3): 461–76. doi:10.1080/02255189.2003.9668932. 
  8. ^ abcUNDP. 2013. Human Development Report. The Rise of the South. Human Progress in a Diverse World; New York, UNDP.
  9. ^UNESCO. 2014. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/2014: Teaching and Learning, Paris, UNESCO.
  10. ^UNESCO (2015). Mobile phones and literacy: Empowerment in Women's Hands; A Cross-Case Analysis of Nine Experiences(PDF). 33: UNESCO. ISBN 978-92-3-100123-9. 
  11. ^Cracking the code: girls' and women's education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Paris: UNESCO. 2017. p. 11. ISBN 9789231002335. 
  12. ^ abSutton, J. & Pollock, S. (2000). "Online Activism for Women's Rights". Cyber Psychology & Behavior. 3 (5): 699–706. doi:10.1089/10949310050191700. 
  13. ^Churchyard, N. (2009). "The Question of Empowerment: Women's Perspective on Their Internet Use". Gender, Technology and Development. 13 (3): 341–363. doi:10.1177/097185241001300302. 
  14. ^McVeigh, T. (June 6, 2013). "Online Feminist activists of the digital age". Taipei Times. 
  15. ^ abStephan, P. (August 13, 2013). "Breast cancer patients blog their blues away". breastcancer.about.com. 
  16. ^Radovic-Markovic, M.; Nelson-Porter, B. & Omolaja, M. (2012). "The new alternative women's entrepreneurship education: E-learning and virtual universities"(PDF). International Women Online Journal of Distance Education. 1 (2): 46–54. ISSN 2147-0367. 
  17. ^Nussbaum, Martha C. (1995). "Introduction". In Martha C. Nussbaum & Jonathan Glover. Women, Culture, and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 1–15. ISBN 9780198289647. 
  18. ^Morahan-Martin, J. (2000). "Women and the Internet: Promise and Perils". Cyber Psychology & Behavior. 3 (5): 683–691. doi:10.1089/10949310050191683. 
  19. ^ ab"Statistics". AWARE RSS. AWARE. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  20. ^Stein, A.I. (2009). "Women Lawyers Blog for Workplace Equality: Blogging as a Feminist Legal Method". Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. 20 (2): 357–408. 
  21. ^ abSafia Samee Ali (April 11, 2016). "'Motherhood Penalty' Can Affect Women Who Never Even Have a Child". NBC News. 
  22. ^Gupta, Kamla; Yesudian, P. Princy (2006). "Evidence of women's empowerment in India: a study of socio-spatial disparities". GeoJournal. doi:10.1007/s10708-006-7556-z. 
  23. ^U.N. General Assembly, 55th Session leke berrand fezer (8 September 2000). "United Nations Millennium Declaration"(PDF). (A/55/L.2). Retrieved January 2, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

Former First Lady Michelle Obama greets students during a Room to Read event with First Lady Bun Rany of Cambodia in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative, at Hun Sen Prasat Bakong High School in Siem Reap, Cambodia, March 21, 2015.

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