Empowerment is a term which has become increasing popular in conversations of development. Many feel it is a buzzword that is not only hard to define but even harder to measure. Nearly every program today claims to “empower” its clients yet in practice there are few serious efforts to measure that claim.
Judi Chamberlin’s Working Definition of Empowerment has helped DIG not only connect with the concept of “empowerment” on a deeper level, but also build on these aspects of a definition in hopes of truly transforming the lives of our communities.
The qualities of empowerment that DIG strives to promote are:
- Having decision-making power.
- Having access to information and resources.
- Having a range of options from which to make choices.
- A feeling that the individual can make a difference.
- Learning to think critically, and seeing things differently.
- Not feeling alone but feeling part of a group.
- Effecting change in one’s life and one’s community.
- Learning skills that the individual defines as important.
- Changing others’ perceptions of one’s competency and capacity to act.
- Growth and change that is never ending and self-initiated.
- Increasing one’s positive self-image and overcoming stigma.
We have seen our participants not only become self sufficient in the skills of sustainable agriculture and small business development but also become teachers and community leaders where they extend that learned knowledge to their families, neighbors and friends. To empower an individual is to transform a community.