Measuring Empowerment: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

By Deepa Narayan | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Gender, Power, and
Empowerment: An Analysis
of Household and Family
Dynamics

Joy Desbmukh-Ranadive

The dynamics of empowerment are complex and multifaceted. Power and the potential for empowerment are linked to all levels of society, including its macro, meso, and micro dimensions. For understanding the gender dimensions of empowerment, however, the position of the individual within the domestic arena is of particular importance. It is within the supposedly “private” domain of the domestic unit that multiple hierarchies of power between men and women intersect, affecting their opportunities and capacity for empowerment.

This chapter explores the concept of “spaces” as a tool for measurement of both power and empowerment, focusing on the hierarchical positions of men and women within domestic units. This framework and associated measures lend themselves both to analysis of existing power relationships and to investigation of potential processes of empowerment.


Household, Family, and Domestic Unit

In order to understand the gender dimensions of power and empowerment, it is necessary to open the “Pandora’s box” of the household and family.1 It is here that the main roots of gender discrimination are located.

The terms “household” and “family” are often used interchangeably in development research. Both terms refer to a domestic unit, and in some contexts they may be taken as equivalent. In empowerment research, however, it is important to distinguish them conceptually. Making this distinction

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