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.
|1. Self-Image; self-esteem
||11. Marriage and kinship rules, norms and processes
||19. Consciousness of self and others as interdependent|
|2. Legal and rights awareness
||12. Laws and practices of citizenship
||20. Negotiation , accommodation habits|
|3. Information and skills
||13. Information and access to services
||21. Alliance and coalition habits|
||14. Access to justice, enforceability of rights
||22. Pursuit, acceptance of accountability|
|5. Employment/control of own labor
||15. Market accessibility
||23. New social forms: altered relationships and behaviors|
|6. Mobility in public space
||16. Political representation
|7. Decision influence in household
||17. State budgeting practices
|8. Group membership and activism
||18. Civil society representation
|9. Material assets owned
|10. Body health and bodily integrity
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.