With the formulation of the first ever internationally agreed stand-alone goal on gender equality, debates around women’s empowerment are at a critical juncture. This IDS Bulletin makes a timely contribution to our understanding of how ideas around empowerment have evolved and how we can move forward to expand women’s opportunities and choices and realise women’s empowerment in a meaningful way.
Even though the importance of women’s empowerment is widely accepted, it remains a complex concept that defies precise definitions and easy measurements. Together, the articles in this special Archive Collection demonstrate the depth and breadth of a nuanced analysis of empowerment that has come out of academic scholars writing at the cutting edge of this field.
The editors reflect on the interconnectedness of the economic, social and political components of empowerment. In doing so they highlight the significant gaps in policy and programming aimed at furthering processes and outcomes for women’s empowerment. Casting an eye to the future, they draw our attention to two relevant debates that merit further unpacking – that of inequality, and the question of how the Sustainable Development Goals can contribute to furthering processes of women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Ultimately this IDS Bulletin reminds us that empowerment – implying an expansion of opportunities and the power to make choices – can only be realised through a collective, rather than individualised notion of empowerment that focuses on addressing structural inequality and inequitable power relations, and gives primacy to women’s agency in negotiating and challenging these structures.