Women empowering themselves: A framework that interrogates and transforms.


This book lays out an innovative framework for understanding issues of women’s empowerment. This is the framework conceptualized and used by the Research Programme Consortium on Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: Gender, poverty and democratisation from the inside out (WEMC). In this book the Consortium shares its concepts, analyses and research findings some two years after the framework’s inception. It includes grounded narratives of how women can be and are being empowered in their lived realities, derived from the Consortium’s research in China, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and in cross-border situations.

Chapter 1 introduces the WEMC Research Programme Consortium. It explains what WEMC stands for, why it deals with Muslim contexts and why WEMC has selected particular research foci.

Chapter 2 lays out WEMC’s conceptualisation of women’s empowerment. The WEMC Consortium understands women’s empowerment as an increased ability to question, challenge and eventually transform unfavourable gendered power relations, often legitimised in the name of ‘culture’. This conceptual framework highlights the significance of the critical meso level, where local power structures stand between women and the state. It explains why women’s indigenous strategies of empowerment – that is, endeavours to assert their rights in their own socio-cultural context, according to their specific circumstances – are particular relevant at micro and meso levels.

Chapter 3 discusses cultural complexities in conceptualizing ‘empowerment’. It explains the core research questions used by WEMC researchers to undertake comparative studies of women’s empowerment across different countries and contexts. Of particular importance is the documentation and analyses of how women strategise to empower themselves. These include individual, collective, organized and institutionalized strategies.

The Conclusion identifies the book as an evolving map to guide our collective journey to chart alternative narratives of women’s empowerment. It promises another edition of this framework as another milestone in our learning, expanded and re-oriented by new findings, lessons and reflections.


Womens Empowerment in Muslim Contexts, ISBN No. 978-962-442-306-8, 84 pp.

Women empowering themselves: A framework that interrogates and transforms.

Published 1 January 2008