Human Development Approach - Women Empowerment


In the last five decades, the concept of women empowerment has undergone a sea change from welfare oriented approach of women empowerment to equity approach. Many researchers have tried to provide a suitable definition of Women Empowerment. According to Sen and Batliwala (2000) “Empowerment is the process by which the  powerless gain greater control over the circumstances  of their lives. It includes both controls over resources and over ideology…(Includes in addition to extrinsic control) a growing intrinsic capability greater self confidence, and an inner transformation of one’s consciousness that enables one to overcome external barriers…Women Empowerment  is a change in the context of a women’s life, which enables her increased capacity for leading a fulfilling human life. Women Empowerment is one of the essential factor that promote human development. The programme of Action of the International conference on population and development stresses that the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is both a highly important and in itself and necessary for sustainable human development. The concept of human development has evolved out as a broader measure of socio- economic progress of nation. Since its launch in 1990, “Human Development Report” by UNDP defined human development as a process of enlarging people’s choices. Human development is measured in the form of a composite index called as Human Development Index. In 1995, the Human Development Report introduced the concept of Gender Related Development index including other indices such as Gender empowerment measure.

Human Development and women empowerment, both are mutually reinforcing. In fact empowered women can contribute to human development through household and community activity and at the same time progress in human development is expected to promote women empowerment through improved health, nutrition, education, social, security, political freedom availability of employment and a decent standard of living. Female education is an important input of the production function i,e., “Human Development Improvement Function” which explain the effectiveness of expenditure directed to human development. Female education has important bearings on child health and their survival. Moreover a study in cote de Ivoire reveals that increased female share over household income leads to increased spending on human development enhancing items like food, healthcare, and reduced spending on tobacco. But evidences show that a high level of human development in terms of HDI is not necessarily linked with highly empowered women. Many countries having high HDI are having low GDI. This reveals the fact that there is a gap between men and women in achievement in human development.  This gender gap is mostly seen in five critical areas: economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, access to education and reproductive healthcare as mentioned in the report of world economic forum. It is increasingly viewed that empowerment of women is an essential prerequisite for poverty alleviation and upholding human rights and for sustainable human development. Therefore strategy is needed to ensure that women’s empowerment and gender equality are activity pursued in the mainstream of all developmental objectives.


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