Approach to Empowerment

The Women's Development Programme (WDP) is intended to empower unknowing women. Empowerment does not occur in a vacuum, through. It requires activities. The process of activity-based empowerment involves learning to do and also learning by doing. Many features of the WDP approach can be identified.

Educational: Under the programme, participants are considered to have been enrolled in a life-long process of learning. A variety of courses, some of which are compulsory for everybody, are offered. Learning opportunities are also created by way of benchmarking exercises, study attachments, consultative workshops and the like.

Unimposed: The facilitator is unknowing in terms of activity, or so it is assumed. As soon as some preliminary steps have been completed, women are encouraged to be involved in activities of their choosing. Because they are carried out for the purposes of empowerment, activities are like educational projects. The Department, therefore, takes all initiatives — from a campaign against domestic violence to commercialization of floriculture to construction of the office building — as equals and supports them. In principle at least, the Department does not care for whether the initiative is successful or not. Even a failed venture can be immensely empowering.

Associational: While a person is empowered, the process is not personal. Empowerment takes place amidst a challenging, comparative and co-operative association involving support, opposition, appreciation, criticism, insistence, embarrassment, inspiration, fear, pressure and resistance. Thus individuals are associated with each other by organizing them into groups and federations of groups.

Socio-economic: The social and economic aspects of empowerment are taken together. Here are three action points

  • expand the social role and change the daily life;
  • increase the economic activities and break through the circle of want; and
  • encourage organized activity and create a social force against discrimination.

Participatory: Group members are looked upon not as recipients but as creators of services. The primary forum for participation is formed at ward level where all group members in that area have to assemble every month. The agenda: express yourself, listen to others, look at issues from your standpoint and also from that of others, explore possibilities and broaden your perspective. There are the 'doing' types of items on the agenda, of course. But, in terms of empowering effect, they are secondary to those of the 'thinking' type.

Anchored: While the do-it-yourself rule is universal, women are not left alone. Accompanying them into the uncharted territory is the departmental facilitator who frequently comes to the village from the district headquarters. By virtue of her being close, friendly, supportive, appreciative and exemplary, the facilitator has the power of expectations. She runs behind the group so as not to be 'offside'.