Women's Empowerment Framework

Women's Empowerment Framework

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At CARE, we view women’s empowerment through the lens of poor women’s struggles to achieve their full and equal human rights. In these struggles, women strive to balance practical, daily, individual achievements with strategic, collective, long-term work to challenge biased social rules and institutions.
Therefore, CARE defines women’s empowerment as the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights – the interplay of changes in:

  • Agency: her own aspirations and capabilities,
  • Structure: the environment that surrounds and conditions her choices,
  • Relations: the power relations through which she negotiates her path.

Women’s empowerment is a process of social change, and we only capture part of its richness when we assess the process of empowerment in terms of its outcomes. Furthermore, the nature of gender power relations, and the triggers for empowerment, differ from culture to culture and context to context. No standard list of impact indicators can be relevant in all places and times, for all kinds of women. For that reason, the SII requires each research team to build a process for exploring gender power relations in context, with the affected stakeholders - both to ground-proof relevant indicators, and to "fill in the spaces" with insight about how changes come about, and what role, if any, CARE's work has played.

However, we need a place to start, and that is what the SII’s global women's empowerment framework tries to offer. It focuses on concrete outcomes for which we can hold ourselves accountable, and organizes the diversity of women’s realities into a shared framework. In each context, we can start to focus our work by linking women’s own definitions and priorities for empowerment to 23 key dimensions of social change which have been shown to be widely relevant to women’s empowerment across many studies and contexts.

Agency Structures Relations

1. Self-Image; self-esteem

2. Legal and rights awareness

3. Information and skills

4. Education

5. Employment/control of own labor

6. Mobility in public space

7. Decision influence in household

8. Group membership and activism

9. Material assets owned

10. Body health and bodily integrity

11. Marriage and kinship rules, norms and processes

12. Laws and practices of citizenship

13. Information and access to services

14. Access to justice, enforceability of rights

15. Market accessibility

16. Political representation

17. State budgeting practices

18. Civil society representation

19. Consciousness of self and others as interdependent

20. Negotiation , accommodation habits

21. Alliance and coalition habits

22. Pursuit, acceptance of accountability

23. New social forms: altered relationships and behaviors

As noted above, CARE believes that women's empowerment is more sustainable, and more complete, when it is firmly anchored in inter-related changes across all three of these domains - the empowerment framework challenges us to think outside the "agency" box that development projects so often address.


CARE's Women's Empowerment Framework