Empowerment can be defined as a “multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important” (Page and Czuba, 1999). Women empowerment factors in aspects of gender equality and equity.
Gender equality is understood to mean that the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of individuals will not depend on whether they are born male or female. What is expected of a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, differs depending on the socio-cultural context in which they live. Gender roles are learned by each person through socialization processes. In other words: what he or she learns from others through the social interactions they have with their families, peers, and society at large. This means that gender roles and gender role expectations are not fixed and can change over time in the same way that they differ across different societies.
On a larger scale, gender role expectations are institutionalized through legislation, education, political and economic systems, culture and traditions. These institutions structure social and cultural life and create gendered norms and practices. The gendered division of labor in everyday life is an example: women continue to play a dominant role in providing unpaid care to family members and taking care of domestic chores but they play a subordinate role in political and economic life. As women dedicate more time to unpaid activities, they are often dependent on men’s income and less protected through financial savings, pension entitlements, and property in their name. This means that women are at greater risk of poverty and have fewer opportunities in the labor market.
The general understanding is therefore that women need to be “empowered” in order to narrow the “gender gap” and to create an equal playing field between women and men before gender equality can be reached and maintained. But what does it mean for a woman to be empowered? According to the United Nations Population Fund, an empowered woman has a sense of self-worth. She can determine her own choices and has access to opportunities and resources providing her with an array of options she can pursue. She has control over her own life, both within and outside the home and she has the ability to influence the direction of social change to create more just social and economic order, both nationally and internationally