The paper is a presentation of the work based on an intensive ‘field work’ conducted in Hoshangabad district, block Kesla, Madhya Pradesh, India. The work examines the practices of women empowerment and its strategies at the ground level. It is a work which critically pursues the functions of empowerment strategies and goals,with its successes and failures and argues for an uncovering of the deeper layers embedded in the hegemony of a certain ‘kind’ of training of the rural woman. The paper is a reflection on the power attached to the ‘parameter’ of agency in models of women empowerment and rethink agency at a conceptual, philosophical level. The training of women to be ‘agentic’, one who has a ‘voice’, or about building her inbuilt ‘capability’, the paper is a thinking on an instrumentality of agency in the discourse of development and how it can be rethought. The object of enquiry thus holds to understand the ‘experience’ of empowerment and its nature of ‘transformation’. The category of the ‘third world woman’ as a victim, gets foregrounded in the global projects of ‘empowering’ them, as ‘unified’, homogenous, subjects of ‘transformation’. The paper asks, what gets ‘prescribed’ and ‘described’ as empowerment. The work is then trying to sit patiently with the women who have been ‘prescribed’ as the ‘empowered’ women, and listen to their narratives which might not always be the linear, structured narratives of ‘empowerment’. We then need to hear this voice, deeply, to what she says, when she talks loudly, aggressively and when she sounds meek, when she slowly disapproves of her life as a ‘woman’, as a ‘struggling’ woman, thinks of life as ‘labor’ but life also that of possibility. A possibility within gaps and disruptions. The argument of the paper then asks us to re-visit the notions of empowerment as a structural category which is fulfilled through the mainstream development rhetoric and what it means to ‘live’ empowerment, perhaps through a renewed understanding of ‘agency’ in the contemporary. It is thus to unfold these practices in order to understand ‘what of’ empowerment effects (and affects) women in their everyday lives.
Gurpreet Kaur, Ambedkar University Delhi, India
Stream: Gender studies / Feminist Theory
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