WHAT IS EMPOWERMENT?
The most conspicuous feature of the term empowerment is that it contains the word power, which, to side step philosophical debate, may be broadly defined as control over material, assets, intellectual resources, and ideology. The material assets over which control can be exercise may be physical, human , or financial , such as land , water, forests, people’ bodies and labors, money and excess to money. Intellectual resources include knowledge, information and ideas. Control over ideology signifies the ability to generate, sustain, and institutionalize specific sets of believes, values, attitudes and behavior ——- virtually determining how people proceed and function with in given social economic and political environments.
The term empowerment refers to arrange of activities from individual self accession to collective resistance, protest and mobilization that challenge basic power relations for individuals and groups where class, caste, ethnicity and gender determine there access to resources and power, there empowerment begins when they not only recognize the systematic forces that oppress them, but act to change existence power relationships. Empowerment therefore in the process aimed at changing the nature and direction of systematic forces which marginalize women and other disadvantaged sections in a given context.
Empowerment is thus both a process and the result of that process.
Individuals acquiring the power to think and act freely, exercise choice, and to fulfill their potential has fallen equally to members of society.’ Following UNIFEM DFID includes the following factors:
ü Acquiring knowledge and understanding of gender relations and the ways in which these relations may be changed
ü Developing a sense of self-worth, a belief in one’s ability to secure desire changes and the right to control one’s life
ü Gaining the ability to generate choices and exercise bargaining power developing the ability to organize and influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.
Empowerment of Women
Despite many international agreements affirming women’s human rights, girls and women are still much more likely than men to be poor, malnourished and illiterate, and to have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
Where women are poor, uneducated and have little participation in the wider society, family size tends to be large and the population growth rate high. Population and development programs are more effective when they center on improving the education, rights and status of women.
Childbearing has been women’s chief source of security and status for centuries. This is still the case, especially where women are denied education, reproductive health care, secure livelihoods and full equal rights. Yet each year, 585,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Successful population and development programs must offer women options for their lives beyond childbearing.
Women in developing nations are usually in charge of securing water, food and fuel and of overseeing family health and diet.
Therefore they tend to put into immediate practice whatever they learn about nutrition, preserving the environment and natural resources, and improving sanitation and health care.Of the 960 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are female. Higher levels of women’s education are strongly associated with both lower infant mortality and lower fertility. In poor countries, every additional year of a woman’s schooling is associated with a 5 to 10% decline in child deaths.
Children born to mothers below age 18 are 1.5 times more likely to die before age 5 than those born to mothers age 20-34. Yet three of every four teenage girls in Africaare mothers, and 40 percent of births there are to women under 17.
Programs that offer girls alternative life choices can help them stay in school and, consequently, delay childbearing. This lengthens the time span between generations. Such women tend also to have fewer children three or four rather Than six or more.
Laws and customs often deny women the right to own land, inherit property, establish credit, receive training or move up in their field of work. Laws against domestic violence are often not enforced on behalf of women. Achieving gender equality in these areas will require the support of men who exercise most of the power in these spheres of life.
The involvement of men is critical to women’s rights and to population policy success. In Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigerand Senegal, for example, men want between two and four more children than their wives do; in Cameroon, Maliand Senegal, fewer than half of men approve of family planning. Birthrates in those West African nations are higher than in most of East Africa, where with the exception of Tanzania, more than 90% of both men and women favor family planning.
The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined – they are socially determined. Often justified as required by culture or religion, they still vary widely by locality and change constantly; they are not immutable. Slavery, torture and racial and ethnic prejudice are also centuries-old practices now rightly condemned worldwide when they involve people of color, political dissidents, Jews or other ethnic groups. Violations of women’s human rights must receive the same international censure.
THE GIRL CHILD
The objectives are to eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child, to eliminate the root causes of son preference, to increase public awareness of the value of the girl child and to strengthen her self-esteem. To these ends, leaders at all levels of society should speak out and act forcefully against gender discrimination within the family based on preference for sons. There should be special education and public information efforts to promote equal treatment of girls and boys with respect to nutrition, health care, education and social, economic and political activity, as well as equitable inheritance.
Governments should develop an integrated approach to the special health, education and social needs of girls and young women, and should strictly enforce laws to ensure that marriage is entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. Governments are urged to prohibit female genital mutilation and to prevent infanticide, prenatal sex selection, trafficking of girl children and use of girls in prostitution and pornography.
MALE RESPONSIBILITIES AND PARTICIPATION
Men play a key role in bringing about gender equality since, in most societies; they exercise preponderant power in nearly every sphere of life. The objective is to promote gender equality and to encourage and enable men to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behavior and their social and family roles.
Governments should promote equal participation of women and men in all areas of family and household responsibilities, including, among others, responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive behavior, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and shared control in and contribution to family income and children’s welfare. Governments should take steps to ensure that children receive appropriate financial support from their parents and should consider changes in law and policy to ensure men’s support for their children and families. Parents and schools should ensure that attitudes that are respectful of women and girls as equals are instilled in boys from the earliest possible age.
Many of the existing approaches to contraception and women’s reproductive health, focused entirely on improved technology and delivery system and birth control, and termination and fertility, safe delivery, prenatal and post natal care. But none of these addresses the more fundamental questions of discrimination against girls and women in excess to food and health care: male domination to sexual relations: women’s lack of control over the sexuality: the gender division of labor that lenders women little more than beasts of burden in many cultures: or the denied by many societies of human rights to determine the number of children they want.
These issues are all linked to women’s position and or not necessarily affected by reduced birth rates or improvements women’s physical health. This is one of the dichotomies that an empowerment process must seek to an address.
The economic empowerment approach attributes women’s sub ordination to lack of economic power. It focuses on improving women’s control over material resources and strengthening women’s economic security.
Groups are formed using two methods:
ü Organizing women on savings and credit,
ü Income generation for skill training activities
Imagine living in a society where the way you dress, bathe, speak to your spouse and family, and even write letters is specifically dictated by your religion and government. This is a fact of life for most women ofPakistan. The restrictions upon Muslim women are imposed by the national religion, Islam, which maintains a strong influence in the government. The freedoms granted to women are few; they have prevented women from integrating into the labor force, obtaining an education, and gaining any level of self-sufficiency. Thus women are kept out of the work force and remain uneducated.
A major reasonPakistanis not realizing its full economic potential is because its women are not allowed to take part in its transformation from a developing to developed country. To become the upper middle-income countryPakistanaspires to be, societal attitudes and the status of women must change through the education and integration of women into the labor force.
Religion and politics have been continuously intertwined throughout the course of
Pakistan’s history. From presidential to military to parliamentary governments, Islam ideology has remained a deep-rooted foundation of Pakistani society. The government has interpreted the Quran, the holy text of Islam, in several different ways, but these interpretations were rarely formalized into actual law. However, in 1979 General Zia, the then head of state, spearheaded a movement termed “Islamization,” based on Islamic principles of justice.1 The Sharia Bill of 1991, a result of the movement, required that all laws in the country conform to Islam beliefs, thus restricting the already limited domain of women in society.
The Muslim religion dictates societal gender relations through two fundamental perceptions: that a woman is seen as inferior to men and that she is the guardian of family honor, especially of her husband and father.3 Keeping women sheltered from the public serves as almost a guarantee that her honor, and therefore that of her family, will be upheld. This is most apparent in the cultural practice of “purdah,” the complete veiling of a woman’s face and body, and is symbolic of the stark segregation of a woman from her environment and peers.
It is socially unacceptable for a woman to lead her life without any sort of existing restrictions upon her mobility. In such a society, the progression of women’s status is a process that is slow and difficult to monitor. A female’s economic activity often goes unreported, or is credited to the male head of the household. Rural women do work more often, out of greater necessity, but whether rural or urban, to admit that a woman is a wage earner is to shame her entire family. Although in past years the percentage of women in the labor force has risen from 10% to 14%, the remaining majority of capable women have yet to enter the labor market.
Woman is an integral and indispensable segment of human society. They make almost half of the globe. They have literally complemented the man in every civilization. One can hardly ignore the multi-dimensional role of women in every society. She commands respect and honor in all religions.
Islam is very particular about her significant status & role in the society. It is the ever first religion, which accorded not only respect to her but also her due share in inheritance. However the ground realities are quite opposite to the religious teachings in many countries including Pakistan. The status of woman in Pakistanis a source of enormous domestic and international interest, as well as a Social & Political controversy. The fact that women’s status is low by all social, economic, and political indicators has made it a subject of a great concern. In Pakistan’s policy-making on women, problem identification is clear and strong but policy formulation is negatively influenced by macro-level political pressures, limited resources, and limited conceptual understandings. Micro-level implementation and evaluation are extremely weak. Hence, the pattern of decision- making on women, which becomes identified as a policy when it unfolds, appears INCONSISTANT.