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Sociological empowerment often addresses members of groups that social discrimination processes have excluded from decision-making processes through - for example - discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Empowerment as a methodology is often associated with feminism: see consciousness-raising.
"Marginalized" refers to the overt or covert trends within societies whereby those perceived as lacking desirable traits or deviating from the group norms tend to be excluded by wider society and ostracised as undesirables.
Sometimes groups are marginalized by society at large, but governments are often unwitting or enthusiastic participants. For example, the U.S. government marginalized cultural minorities, particularly blacks, prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act made it illegal to restrict access to schools and public places based on race. Equal opportunity laws which actively oppose such marginalization, allow increased empowerment to occur. It should be noted that they are also a symptom of minorities' and women's empowerment through lobbying.
Marginalized people who have no opportunities for self-sufficiency become, at a minimum, dependent on charity or welfare. They lose their self-confidence because they cannot be fully self-supporting. The opportunities denied them also deprive them of the pride of accomplishment which others, who have those opportunities, can develop for themselves. This in turn can lead to psychological, social and even mental health problems.
Empowerment is then the process of obtaining these basic opportunities for marginalized people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalized others who share their own access to these opportunities. It also includes actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities. Empowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group. This process can be difficult to start and to implement effectively, but there are many examples of empowerment projects which have succeeded.
One empowerment strategy is to assist marginalized people to create their own nonprofit organization, using the rationale that only the marginalized people, themselves, can know what their own people need most, and that control of the organization by outsiders can actually help to further entrench marginalization. Charitable organizations lead from outside of the community, for example, can disempower the community by entrenching a dependence on charity or welfare. A nonprofit organization can target strategies that cause structural changes, reducing the need for ongoing dependence. Red Cross, for example, can focus on improving the health of indigenous people, but does not have authority in its charter to install water-delivery and purification systems, even though the lack of such a system profoundly, directly and negatively impacts health. A nonprofit composed of the indigenous people, however, could insure their own organization does have such authority and could set their own agendas, make their own plans, seek the needed resources, do as much of the work as they can, and take responsibility - and credit - for the success of their projects (or the consequences, should they fail).
The process through which enables others to gain power,authority and influence over others,institutions or society. Empowerment is probably the totality of the following or similar capabilities:-
- Having decision-making power of their own
- Having access to information and resources for taking proper decision
- Having a range of options from which you can make choices (not just yes/no, either/or.)
- Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
- Having positive thinking on the ability to make change
- Ability to learn skills for improving one's personal or group power.
- Ability to change others’ perceptions by democratic means.
- Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
- Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
One account of the history of workplace empowerment in the United States recalls the clash of management styles in railroad construction in the American West in the mid-19th century, where "traditional" hierarchical East-Coast models of control encountered individualistic pioneer workers, strongly supplemented by methods of efficiency-oriented "worker responsibility" brought to the scene by Chinese laborers. In this case, empowerment at the level of work teams or brigades achieved a notable (but short-lived) demonstrated superiority. See the views of Robert L. Webb.
Empowerment in the workplace is regarded by critics as more a pseudo-empowerment exercise, the idea of which is to change the attitudes of workers, so as to make them work harder rather than giving them any real power, and Wilkinson (1998) refers to this as "attitudinal shaping". However, recent research suggests that the opportunity to exercise personal discretion/choice (and complete meaningful work) is an important element contributing to employee engagement and well-being. There is evidence (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990) that initiative and motivation are increased when people have a more positive attributional style. This influences self-belief, resilience when faced with set-backs, and the ability to visualise oneself overcoming problems. The implication is that 'empowerment' suits some more than others, and should be positioned in the broader context of an 'enabling' work environment.
In economic development, the empowerment approach focuses on mobilizing the self-help efforts of the poor, rather than providing them with social welfare. Economic empowerment is also the empowering of previously disadvantaged sections of the population, for example, in many previously colonialised African countries.
In the arena of personal development, empowerment forms an apogee of many a system of self-realisation or of identity (re-)formation. Realising the solipsistic impracticality of everyone anarchistically attempting to exercise power over everyone else, empowerment advocates have adopted the word "empowerment" to offer the attractions of such power, but they generally constrain its individual exercise to potentiality and to feel-good uses within the individual psyche. The concept of personal development is seen as important by many employers, with emphasis placed on continuous learning, increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Empowerment is ultimately driven by the individual's belief in their capability to influence events.
Empowerment can be attained through one or many ways. An important factor in the discovery and application of the human "self empowerment" lies within the tools used to unveil the truth. It has been suggested that Yoga is one such tool that can be used for more than the obvious physical benefits. When Yoga is practiced consistently the mind / body connection is apparent. Through this connection, the individual finds him or herself with a stronger sense of self and the ability to change areas where bad habits rule, negative emotions run rampant, even controlling addictions through understanding them for what they are. What can be more empowering than gaining control over self.== References == Wilkinson, A. 1998. Empowerment: theory and practice. Personnel Review. [online]. Vol. 27(1): 40-56. Available from: Emerald on the World Wide Web: http://hermia.emeraldinsight.com/vl=2601464/cl=84/nw=1/fm=docpdf/rpsv/cw/mcb/00483486/v27n1/s3/p40 [Accessed 16.02.2004].
- Civil rights
- Client rights
- Independence (personality)
- Self determination
Key texts – Books
- Rose S M & Black B L(1985) Advocacy and Empowerment: Mental Health Care in the Community. ISBN 0415151287
- Thomas, K. W. and Velthouse, B. A. (1990) Cognitive Elements of Empowerment: An 'Interpretive' Model of Intrinsic Task Motivation. Academy of Management Review, Vol 15, No. 4, 666-681.
Additional material – Books
Key texts – Papers
- Rappaport, J. (1981). In praise of paradox: A social policy of empowerment over prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 9, 1-26.
- Rappaport, J. (1987). Terms of empowerment/exemplars of prevention: Toward a theory of community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 15, 121-144.
- Riger, S. (1994). What's wrong with empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21, 279-292.
- Saegert, S., & Winkel, G. (1996). Paths to community empowerment: Organizing at home. American Journal of Community Psychology, 24, 517-550.
- Wilkinson, A. 1998. Empowerment: theory and practice. Personnel Review. [online].
Vol. 27, No. 1, 40-56. Available from: Emerald on the World Wide Web: http://hermia.emeraldinsight.com/vl=2601464/cl=84/nw=1/fm=docpdf/rpsv/cw/mcb/00483486/v27n1/s3/p40. Accessed February 16, 2004.
- Zimmerman, M. A., & Perkins, D. D. (Eds.) (1995). Empowerment theory, research, and application. American Journal of Community Psychology, Special Issue, 23, 569-807.
Additional material - Papers
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