Women - The way out of poverty? Locating women empowerment in a case study of Kudumbashree.

University essay from Lunds universitet/Genusvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Abstract Since the early 1990s the concept of ?women empowerment? has gained ground in the development discourse as a result of the acknowledgement of the marginalization of women in development strategies. Poverty is frequently given the face of a woman, making it fashionable to evolve gender sensitive development schemes based on women empowerment, which are supposed to challenge the victimization of poor women. In the South Indian State of Kerala, a statewide poverty eradication program called Kudumbashree has developed an anti-poverty strategy including a participatory approach towards women empowerment. Our aim is to critically examine the implementation of women empowerment. At a theoretical level this study draws on insights from Marxist, development, postmodern, and feminist scholars, and we analyze social and economic empowerment using a multiplicity of methods and sources, with a main focus on oral narratives. In the analysis social and economic changes have been considered, not only with regard to material ?realities?, but also in terms of ideology and hegemonic domination. In order to locate the relationship between power structures and the human ability to negotiate with these structures we address the notions of consciousness and agency, which are decisive to understand the process of women empowerment. Our view taken here is that consciousness is shaped by both ideological structures and lived realities, stressing the significance of historical and cultural contexts. This study shows that women empowerment may reinforce a dependency of the tools given and reproduce a power relation between the women and their potential ?saviors?, as development programs tend to move towards a liberal direction rather than challenging dominant ideologies and Western hegemony. Key words: India, Kerala, Kudumbashree, development, women empowerment, class, gender, ethnicity, ideology, hegemonic domination, participation, agency, consciousness

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