Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Grassroots Communities' Perceptions Relating to Extent of Control as A Pillar of Women Empowerment in Makhado Municipality of South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Grassroots Communities' Perceptions Relating to Extent of Control as A Pillar of Women Empowerment in Makhado Municipality of South Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract

Empowerment aims at assisting the disadvantaged members of society to take control of their livelihoods. However, questions still arise as to whether women have full control of their lives given the socio-cultural dynamics that are at play in their communities. The study examined the extent to which 'control' was a factor in the empowerment of women in some rural areas of South Africa. A total of 5 924 participants took part in a village-level confirmatory study in which data were collected through questionnaires. The Categorical Data Modelling technique and the pseudo Duncan multiple range procedure were used for data analysis. Significant Interest Group differences were detected (P < 0.10) among the participants' responses. Also, significant inter-Ward differences were detected for the perception; women are excellent role models for children and youth. Results showed that much still needed to be done in as far as women's control of resources was concerned.

Key words: control, Interest groups, women empowerment

Introduction

The fundamental aim of the empowerment process is to afford the marginalised members of society, particularly women, the opportunity to direct and control activities pertaining to their livelihoods. It is at the control stage that development practitioners or policy makers are able to ascertain whether or not a disadvantaged group, women in particular, have achieved their empowerment aspirations. At this level, control of resources and the benefits thereof by both men and women are of paramount importance. Fonjong (2001) adds weight to this discourse by arguing that it is only when women have control over themselves, resources, factors of production and decision-making at home and in the public arena that it can be concluded that they have achieved real empowerment. Longwe (2000) reiterates this viewpoint and argues that empowerment must be defined and measured in terms of women's control over resources and not merely having access to them.

South Africa, like all young democracies, has embarked on various empowerment initiatives in a bid to improve the livelihoods of women, particularly those in rural areas. Women have been engaged in numerous income generating activities in order to sustain their livelihoods and those of their families. Examples of such initiatives include vegetable gardening; money saving schemes (stokvels); vending and food processing (Oberhauser and Pratt, 2004; Mathaulula, 2008; Moyo, 2011). Although women have benefitted from the empowerment initiatives at their disposal, studies conducted in the Limpopo Province and elsewhere in the country, have shown that women still face numerous impediments in as far as their empowerment endeavours are concerned. The foregoing facts together with socio-cultural and political intricacies existing in the communities they come from suggest the need to establish whether women have genuine control of resources at their disposal. Thus, this study was designed to assess the extent to which the various cohorts of rural community members in Wards 1, 29 and 37 of Makhado Municipality perceived women had been empowered if control of resources was taken into account.

Empowerment defined

Empowerment is a multi-dimensional process which has been interpreted differently by various authorities (Oxaal and Baden, 1997; Kabeer, 1999; Van Driel, 2004; Mosedale, 2005). The World Bank (2001) defines empowerment as the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Kabeer (1999: 437) defines empowerment as "the expansion in people's ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them." Oxaal and Baden (1997: 6) assert that empowerment "involves a process whereby women can freely analyse, develop and voice their needs and interests, without them being pre-defined, or imposed from above, by planners or other social actors". …

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