What's the definition of Economic Empowerment?

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"Economic empowerment" can be defined as the development of the ability of the historically disadvantaged to engage in economic activity that benefits both the individuals in question and the broader society. It is seen as a more productive and less costly way to help those who would otherwise remain dependent on the social welfare system. Welfare has its critics who contend that welfare removes the incentive to find employment while drawing excessively from the treasury. By empowering individuals to become economically or financially self-sufficient, they are removed from welfare payrolls and become more productive members of society. Economic empowerment is often applied to women who have been subject to discrimination in education and professional opportunities. These women are not necessarily economically disadvantaged, but they have been denied opportunities to become self-sufficient due to cultural or religious obstacles. In most instances, though, they do fall on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

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While there is no “official” definition of economic empowerment, we can generally say that it consists of giving a group of people the means to be in control of their own economic destiny.  It consists of helping people improve their economic status while, at the same time, gaining more control over that status.

In general, when we talk about economic empowerment, we are referring to the economic empowerment of groups that are powerless.  These are people who have had very little control of their economic destinies and have been largely controlled by others.  For example, women in many developing nations fall into this category.  As another example, blacks in South Africa can be placed in this category as they struggle with the legacy of apartheid.

Economic empowerment efforts typically include efforts to make such people self-sufficient.  For example, it can involve efforts to provide “microcredit” to people so that they can open their own businesses or can improve their farms.  It can also involve providing training for people so that they will be more aware of how to improve their economic status.

In short, then, we can contrast economic empowerment with simple economic aid.  Economic empowerment is meant to give people the means to improve themselves economically, not just food or money to fulfill their immediate needs.

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