Connecting Perspectives on Women’s Empowerment

8 March 2016

Worldwide, women continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. And we have much to celebrate today on International Women's Day, not least the recent formulation of the first ever internationally agreed stand-alone goal on gender equality. However, progress towards gender parity remains dismal in many places and debates around women's empowerment are at a critical juncture.

Cover image IDS Bulletin 47.1

A new IDS Bulletin entitled Connecting Perspectives on Women's Empowerment makes a timely contribution to our understanding of how ideas around empowerment have evolved and how we can move forward to expand women's opportunities and choices and realise women's empowerment in a meaningful way.

Even though the importance of women's empowerment is widely accepted, it remains a complex concept that defies precise definitions and easy measurements. Together, the articles in this special Archive Collection demonstrate the depth and breadth of a nuanced analysis of empowerment that has come out of academic scholars writing at the cutting edge of this field.

The editors reflect on the interconnectedness of the economic, social and political components of empowerment. In doing so they highlight the significant gaps in policy and programming aimed at furthering processes and outcomes for women's empowerment. Casting an eye to the future, they draw our attention to two relevant debates that merit further unpacking – that of inequality, and the question of how the Sustainable Development Goals can contribute to furthering processes of women's empowerment and gender equality.

Ultimately this IDS Bulletin reminds us that empowerment – implying an expansion of opportunities and the power to make choices – can only be realised through a collective, rather than individualised notion of empowerment that focuses on addressing structural inequality and inequitable power relations, and gives primacy to women's agency in negotiating and challenging these structures.

Continuing commitment to gender equality

IDS is well known for its progressive gender research, knowledge sharing and teaching, and for the central role it has played in the conceptual shift from a 'women in development' to a 'gender and development' focus, as well as for critically bringing sexuality and masculinities into gender theory, research and practice.

Through research we strive towards a world free of social and gender injustice, where unequal gendered power relations are transformed and the rights of all human beings are upheld in ways that both challenge and transcend axes of social difference, including sexual orientation, class, race, ethnicity, religion and disability.

Find out more about our work via our Gender and Sexuality web pages, or visit our website on Interactions on the Empowerment of Women and Girls.

We extend our thanks to the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) initiative which provided financial support for the production of this IDS Bulletin.

Image credit: Deepta Chopra, IDS