Pathways Working Paper 7. Liberal vs Liberating Empowerment: Conceptualising Women's Empowerment from a Latin American Feminist Perspective
The term 'women's empowerment' is viewed with a certain amount of distrust by feminists in Latin America. There has been some ambiguity surrounding the term in the region and in some cases it has been appropriated to legitimise actions that may not actually empower. This paper reflects on feminist conceptualisations of empowerment and how the process is believed to unfold. It outlines two basic approaches to conceptualising empowerment: 'liberal' and 'liberating' empowerment. It argues that 'liberal' empowerment depoliticises the process by taking the 'power' out of the equation, whilst 'liberating' empowerment keeps power as the central issue. The latter approach is consistent with the Latin American tradition of collective action and, in conclusion, the paper contends that empowerment in its 'liberating' form has been at work in the region since at least the late 1970s.