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Conceptual Framework For Research Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4845 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study focuses on the empowerment of women through various programmes and schemes in the region, country and across the world sponsored and supported by Government or non Government Organizations. This article consists of review of literature on women’s empowerment through various programmes. Women’s empowerment is an age – old concept spotlighting improving the economic status of women and thorough participation for the development of economy. Existing historical data and status of various programmes provides better scenario for stepping in upward direction. Here the study emphasizes from the concept of women empowerment to the empirical evidences taken from various analysis, past surveys, Government Reports and literature available on it. Main aim of reviewing women’s empowerment practices bring together the aspect of viewed and neglected parts of empowering women which fulfils the need of implementation of schemes, reach at them in a proper manner after covering the lacking parts.

Keywords: Empowerment, Women, Programmes, Conceptual, Empirical


Empowerment of women is not only limited till the term empowerment applies to the women or special group of women in particular area but also it means to develop them in all dimensions. Here the main concern towards development of women. Study starts not only from that there is strong need for womens’ empowerment today but why they need empowerment first. Answer of this could be sometime conflicting if there is one suppressed group, really need empowerment whether this could be men or women.

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A framework for the study based on the ideas and concepts gleaned from existing literature helps a researcher to plan and manage research in a comprehensive manner. “Existing literature also helps to know the previous research work done in particular expanse and it acts like a torch as well as backbone for new studies for new researchers.” All the researches are exploratory in nature as these carried out in ever-changing environment. Here an attempt is made to put some of the closely related literature review under two major heads.

Conceptual framework for Research

Empirical framework for Research

Conceptual framework for Research

In Conceptual framework for research, problem statement can be casted within the context of conceptual or theoretical framework. “A conceptual framework is described as a set of broad ideas and principles taken from relevant fields of enquiry and used to structure a subsequent presentation (Reichel & Ramey, 1987). As with all investigation in the social world, the framework itself forms part of the agenda for negotiation to be scrutinized and tested, reviewed and reformed as a result of investigation (Guba & Lincoln, 1989)”1.

Although many of the researcher view the Conceptual and Theoritical framework as a synonymous and some cast it into research with slight difference. “Most researches report the problem statement within the context of a conceptual or theoretical framework. A description of this framework contributes to a research report in at least two ways because it (1) identifies research variables, and (2) clarifies relationships among the variables. Linked to the problem statement, the conceptual framework sets the stage for presentation of the specific research question that drives the investigation being reported. For example, the conceptual framework and research question would be different for a formative evaluation study than for a summative study, even though their variables might be similar.”2 In this way literature survey is found in different dimensions as:

Power, Empowerment and Womens’ Empowerment

Participation of Women embodied in the Process of Empowerment

Womens’ empowerment programmes and Economic Empowerment

Power, Empowerment and Womens’ Empowerment

“At the core of the concept of empowerment is the idea of power.” The possibility of empowerment depends on two things viz., power can change and power can expand. If power cannot change, if it is inherent in positions or people, then empowerment is not possible. Shrilatha Batliwala (1995) defined Power as control over resources, ideology and self, exersized in socio Political and Economic Context among individuals and groups. The extent of power depends on how much and how many kind of resources they have, excess to and control over. This leads to power of decision making. Jo Rowland (1997) has identified four different forms of power viz., (1) Power over – Control and influence over others, instrumentation of domination, (2) Power to- generative or productive power which creates new possibilities and actions without domination. (3) Power with- a sense of whole being greater than the sum of the individuals especially when group tackles problem together. (4) Power from within- The spiritual strength and uniqueness that resides in each one of us and makes us truly human.

“The concept of empowerment is a product of early eighties; it has its grounding in the changes in development thinking of the mid-1970s. The dictionary meaning of the word ’empowerment’ is-to give power to (person/group) to give them capacity to perform physical or mental activity, to delegate authority, to give legal rights.”3 Rapport (1987) describes the term empowerment as both individual determination over one’s own life and democratic participation in the life of one’s community often through mediating structures such as neighborhoods, voluntary organizations etc. Staples (1990) defined the term empowerment as means (a) to gain power (b) to develop power; to take or seize power; (c) to facilitate or enable power and (d) to give or grant or permit power. One of the most detailed attempts at defining empowerment is found in Kabeer (1999). Defining empowerment as the “ability to make choices,” Kabeer contends that the definition entails change, in that only previously disempowered members of society can be empowered. He suggested that empowerment consists of three dimensions viz., resources, agency and achievements. Sunita Roy (1999) reported that empowerment of women should focus on aspects like (a) direct involvement of women in programming and management, (b) effective collaboration with community organizations, (c) organizing and strengthening of women’s self-help groups, (d) sensitization and advocacy for gender justice in society, (e) identifying women’s need and priorities while generating employment, (f) organizing women in different groups to undertake certain productive activities to earn their livelihood and (g) elimination of violence and discrimination against women at physical, mental, domestic or societal level. Many researchers have stressed the importance of considering the empowerment in multiple domains (Isvan 1991; Kishor 1995; 2000; Hashemi et al. 1996; Mason 1998; Malhotra and Mather 1997; Jejeebhoy 2000; Beegle, Frankenberg, and Thomas (2001); Malhotra et al. 2002). For instance, Malhotra and Mather (1997) argue that: “power is multilocational and exists in multiple domains…it is important that any discussion regarding [empowerment] specify whether this is within the family, social or political spheres, and whether the locus of control is within the household or the community”4 (p. 604). Malhotra et al. (2002) suggested: “women’s empowerment needs to occur along the following dimensions: economic, socio-cultural, familial/interpersonal, legal, political, and psychological. However, these dimensions are very broad in scope, and within each dimension, there is a range of sub-domains within which women may be empowered.”5 Empowerment is viewed broadly as increasing poor people’s freedom of choice and action to shape their own lives (Narayan 2005, p.4).

Participation of Women embodied in the Process of Empowerment

Women have played an important part in our social life and in our history in every branch of national activity from high learning to velour on the battlefield. Today, we pass rapidly through various phases of transition, which requires the rapid changes in our old foundations. The Indian woman, the majority that is, lives in her own time, in the rhythm, of her own history, which does not quite keep time with the clocks of the 21 century. “Women’s participation in the revolutionary movement (Mehta, 2004) was significant even when they were deprived of basic human rights in men’s world. The list of women in India who contributed to the movement for equality is enormous. To name just a few, Sarojini Naidu, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Vijaylaxmi Pundit, Aruna Asaf Ali, and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur took up the fight on several fronts. (Jha and poojary, 1998)”6

In general, Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important. Keller and Mbwewe (1991, as cited in Rowlands 1995) describe it as “a process whereby women become able to organize themselves to increase their own self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make choices and to control resources which will assist in challenging and eliminating their own subordination.” Batliwala (1993) defines power as having two central aspects — control over resources (physical, human, intellectual, financial, and the self), and control over ideology (beliefs, values and attitudes). If power means control, then empowerment therefore is the process of gaining control.

Kabeer(1999; 437)., in an influential paper, suggests that “empowerment…refers to the process by which those who have been denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire such an ability”. Women should be able to define self-interest and choice, and consider themselves as not only able but also entitled to make choices (A. Sen 1999; G. Sen 1993; Kabeer 2001; Rowlands 1995; Nussbaum 2000; Chen 1992). Kabeer (2001) goes a step further and describes this process in terms of “thinking outside the system” and challenging the status quo.

Sudharani et al. (2000) defined empowerment as the process of challenging existing power relations and gaining greater control over the sources of power. Empowerment is a process of awareness and capacity building, enhancing an individual’s or group capacity to make effective choices, that is, to make choices and then to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes (Alsop, Bertelsen and Holland, 2006, p.10). Shirin M. Rai et.al (2007) argued, while the local is important as a focus for debates on empowerment, we think the local must be embedded in the global and the national and vice versa. They argued that: (1) empowerment may be sequential, (2) gender balance alone cannot be the process or outcome in a world ridden with poverty and class inequality, (3) we should use the empowerment language, but contest the way it has been neutralized and even abused.

Womens’ empowerment programmes and Economic Empowerment

“Even though outside work for women often means a double burden, the empirical evidence supports the notion that access to work increases a woman’s economic independence and with it a greater level of general independence is created.”7 According to Hall(1992) “economic subordination must be neutralized for women to be empowered. The economic component of empowerment requires that women be able to engage in a productive activity that will allow them some degree of financial autonomy, no matter how small and hard to obtain at the beginning.”8 The World Bank’s Action Plan to achieve economic empowerment through Smart Economics, for example, targets four key markets: land, labor, product, and financial and measures this through policy initiatives to make markets work for women as well as agency initiatives to empowerment women to compete in markets. “A prerequisite to empowerment, therefore, necessitates stepping outside the home and participating in some form of collective undertaking that can be successful, thus developing a sense of independence and competence among the women.”9 “Priority” should be given to women in the allocation of work “in such a way that at least one-third of the beneficiaries shall be women”. [Schedule II, Para 6, NREGA]. The National Commission for Women (NCW), set up in 1992, has a mandate to safeguard the rights and interests of women. Universalisation of ICDS was contemplated by the end of 1995-96 through expanding its services all over the country. Sanjukta Chaudhuri (2010), in her paper “Women’s Empowerment in South Asia and South East Asia: A Comparative Analysis” contributed to the literature on womens’ empowerment by exploring the time and birth cohort trends of womens’ empowerment in eight countries of South Asia and South East Asia. The countries included are Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan of South Asia; Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam of South East Asia. Initially, she estimated the relationship between economic development and female labor force participation rate FLFPR (the U curve)10 using data on 172 countries from 1990 – 2007. She further examined the influence of time on women’s empowerment and performed a series of multiple regressions on six measures of women’s empowerment variables separately for the eight countries, using individual level survey data for each country. The indicators of women’s empowerment were: economic participation, educational attainment, wage work, fertility, female to male sex ratio of living children, and the ratio of ideal number of daughters to sons. In Rajasthan, Jan Chetna Sansthan have promoted Ekal Naari Shakti Sangathan in Abu Road block, Sirohi in order to help widows and single and separated women It works to ensure a rightful living for single women and addressing their problems. It also works towards getting them widow pension and other benefits under any government schemes. Deepshikha Mahila Bal Utthan Samiti came in to being in the year 1980, with the idea of promoting Welfare Policing Activities.

1.3.1 Gender equity, equality and inequality

Gender equality is considered an important issue for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) because gender inequality is an obstacle to progress, a roadblock on the path of human development (UNDP, 2002, pp.6). Pradhan (2003) discusses the need to bring gender equality where men and women are considered equal in every sphere of life because .if you empower a woman, you empower her children, her community and her country (Pradhan, 2003, pp.51-57). Gender inequality can result in disadvantages and differentials for females in terms of life expectancy and children.s nutrition, denial of choice, lack of political representation, and lack of empowerment (Kabeer, 1999). Sen (2001) notes: “…inequality between women and men can take very many different forms. Indeed, gender inequality is not one homogeneous phenomenon, but a collection of disparate and interlinked problems.” Sen enumerates seven types of gender inequality, including mortality, basic facility, special opportunity, professional, ownership, and household inequality.

In order to develop economy and increased participation of women, Government addressed the problem related to women and initiate to remove inefficiency through implementing various programmes like, Awareness Generation Projects for Rural and Poor Women, CSWB Scheme, Develpoment of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), Family Benefits Scheme, Kishori Shakti Yojana, NORAD Scheme, Scheme for working Women Hostels, Swa Shakti Project, Swayamsidha Scheme, Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP), Science and Technology for Women and so on.

Empirical Framework for Research

Relevant research studies conducted in the past has great relevance for new research work and is a helpful tool to conduct research more precisely. Empirical framework for research underlines the derived results from experiment and observations rather than theory. This is categorized into following subheads:

Impact of Participation of women in Womens’ Empowerment Programmes

Evaluation and analysis of Womens’ Empowerment Programmes

Constraints experienced by rural women in Empowerment process

Impact of Participation of women in Womens’ Empowerment Programmes

Hashemi et al (1996) undertook ethnographic research in six villages for four years to measure the effects of programmes on the empowerment of women. Two villages were Grameen Bank villages, two were BRAC villages, and the other two had no credit programmes. They used a model based on eight indicators of empowerment which were:


economic security;

ability to make small purchases;

ability to make larger purchases;

involvement in major household decisions;

relative freedom from domination within the family;

political and legal awareness; and

involvement in political campaigning and protests

Srilatha et al. (1997) observed that a major gain of making the programme of SHGs women centred was that the transition of power from the bureaucracy to the people. Sen (1997) based on a case study in India, stressed the importance of empowerment of an individual in order to gain control over assets. Haimanti Mukhopadhyay (2008) studied the role of education in Women Empowerment in the district of Malda, West Bengal, India. Her Exhaustive survey comprising forty two villages, tried to unearth the status of women, attitude towards girls education in society, problems hindering the education of women, the importance of marriage in women’s life affecting education as well as the empowerment of women. During the survey, she felt that there was a very positive change at least among women in Malda district who are much more concerned about their daughters’ education, as compared to their previous generation. The WHO’s (2008) “Tackling Social and Economic Determinants of Health through Women’s Empowerment: The SEWA case study” experienced the SEWA as a social movement and a programme that aims to empower the poor must be prepared to listen to the poor. Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) noted that in implementing gender policies in development, it was time to move from treating the symptoms of gender inequality to address the structural factors that cause it.

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Women empowerment programmes made it possible to increase empowerment with increased participation of women. Clark et al. (1991) explored the impact of culture on female labor force participation in 135 countries for 1980. They use a combination of religion, political ideology, and world region variables to find evidence supporting the importance of culture in explaining women’s labor force participation. Throughout the developing countries, innovative lending programs have emerged and In many of these programs it is common to find that a large percentage of borrowers are women. Based on a 1996 survey of microfinance institution around the world, the World Bank estimated that 61% of all clients were women (World Bank, 1997).

2.1.1 SHG and Microfinance

Self Help Group (SHG) is a voluntary association formed for the purpose of engaging small enterprise. To form this organization, it requires a minimum of twelve individuals. K.C. Sharma (2001) maintained that through SHG’s women empowerment is taking place. Rekha R. Baonkar [2001] studied the impact of SHGs on women in Goa and observed that individual loans were mostly for productive purposes with cent percent recovery. P.K.Awasthi, Deepak Rathi and Vimla Sahu [2001] in their study in Madhya Pradesh on the impact of SHGs on economic status of women observed that the SHG women were engaged in Mahua, mushroom cultivation, amachur papad making, pisciculture, nursery etc.

An interesting study made by M.C. Athavale, K.G Sharma and A.M. Mishra [2001] in Madhya Pradesh under the leadership of Anganwardi worker, on the working of a particular SHG called Yoshoda Mahila Samithi(YMS) has helped the members to do saving and get loan. The repayment was 100%. Rajasekar D [2003] analyzed the impact of the economic programmes of SHARE, a NGO in Tamil Nadu on poverty reduction with the help of data collected from the households of 84 women members. Kabeer(2005) examined the empirical evidence on the impact of microfinance with respect to poverty reduction and the empowerment of poor women in South Asia. Prem Chander & Vanguri (2007) highlighted the impact of microfinance programmes on women’s empowerment in India. They compared Swashakti, Swayamsiddha, Swaran Jayanti Gramin Rojgar Yojana (SJGRY) and Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) micro finance programmes for facilitating rural poor women in their access to micro credit.

Evaluation and analysis of Womens’ Empowerment Programmes

Pandey conducted a study to assess the impact of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK). This study is based in the state of Maharashtra and was conducted to examine whether the RMK has been able to achieve its main objectives of reaching credit to poor women, enabling women to achieve economic independence and becoming aware about credit facilities and management. M.S. Jairath [2001] analyzed the growth and development of SHGs in Rajasthan taking two categories: (1) resource poor tribal; and (2) resource better of non-tribal. It was arrived that the average membership, rate of interest, size of borrowings were higher in the former, but the average amount of saving was higher with the latter. Deshmukh Ranadive (2002), in his study on Women’s Access to Credit and Rural Micro-Finance in India has addressed issues related to data in the context of micro-finance interventions in rural areas. The vertical approach has shown how the data that has been collected, throws light on the different dimensions of the programme and the participants. NPC (2005) analyzed gender development in India in the context of interstate analysis with the help of state rankings on the basis of calculating the average of the standard values of the 52 criteria indicators. Dwarakanath H.D [2002] analyzed the characteristics and growth of self help groups in Andhra Pradesh and found that the SHGs using the loan facilities from the cooperative credit banks, commercial banks, mahila bank and Maheswaran banks, have produced more than 50 varieties of products. Abdul Hayes, Ruhul Amin and Stan Becker [1998] analyzed the relationship between poor women’s participation in micro credit programmes and their empowerment by taking both SHG and non-SHG members in rural Bangladesh.

Rajasthan Microfinance Report-2010 revealed that “Good quality Self Help Groups create mutual trust and a sense of solidarity among members. This raises their confidence to deal with socio-economic problems of their family and their village, all by themselves. Women empowerment can further be boosted by promoting four ideologies, which can be taken as indicators of success a) Zero tolerance of domestic violence in families of all SHG members in Rajasthan; b) 100% girl child enrolment in educational institutions in families of all SHG members; c) 100% institutional infant delivery; d) 50% participation of women SHG members at village development committees . Milestones should be set for every year in order to achieve the stated objectives while progress should be tracked by measuring the indicators.”

In Rajasthan Womens’ Development Programme (WDP), conceived in 1984 when the idea of rural “illiterate” women mobilizing collectively was unthinkable. And yet, the programme enabled the evolution of women’s collectives under the leadership of the Sathin, the grass root worker at village level, working tirelessly on a meagre monthly honorarium of Rs 350. The strength of the Sathins and these collectives was derived from the support structures provided by the partnership between the government and the voluntary agency arm of the programme — IDARA (Information and Development and Resource Agency), with its primary role of training and providing creative and critical inputs.

Constraints experienced by rural women in Empowerment process

“During the eighteenth century women suffered from several handicaps like female infanticide, sati (Sharma,1988), purdah (Mathur 2004), child marriage, illiteracy and subsequently forced child widowhood in the19th century. Women were treated no better than domestic animals. Moved by this extreme plight, great social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, M.G. Ranade, D.K.Karve and Mahatma Gandhi were in the forefront, fighting against social atrocities toward women (Jha and Pujari, 1998).”11 Sing K.P (2004) says that among women who were working out of utter economic necessity, the majority were dissatisfied with the time they spend with their children and the time they allocate to their home 57 percent of working women have alternate arrangements for their children either a mother or a mother-in law or a maid to look after their children. Becker’s (2005) model of effort allocation implies that an hour of a man’s time produces more of value to an employer than an hour of equally skilled and experienced women who has greater responsibilities. This in true influences both employer’s treatment of equally capable male and female employees and worker’s subsequent decisions about investing time and energy in household versus market-work. The model implies that small initial disadvantages faced by women in the work-place can lead to extreme results in the division of labour in the household, occupational segregation and earning difference.


Smyth, R. (2004). Exploring the usefulness of a conceptual framework as a research tool: A researcher’s reflections. Issues In Educational Research, 14(2), 167-180.

McGaghie, William C.; Bordage, Georges; Shea, Judy A., Problem Statement, Conceptual Framework, and Research Question September 2001 – Volume 76 – Issue 9 – p 923.

Banerjee NK, “Grassroot empowerment (1975-1990) : A discussion paper”, Occasional paper No.2, CWDS, New Delhi, 1995, p.2.

Malhotra, A. and M. Mather. 1997. “Do Schooling and Work Empower Women in Developing Countries? Gender and Domestic Decisions in Sri Lanka.” Sociological Forum 12(4), p. 604.

Malhotra, A., Schuler, S. R. and Boender, C. (2002) Measuring Women‟s Empowerment as a Variable in International Development (Washington, DC, The World Bank), p. 13;

Haimanti Mukhopadhyay, The Role of Education in the Empowerment of Women in a District of West Bengal, India: Reflections on a Survey of Women , Journal of International Women‟s Studies Vol. 10 #2 November 2008, P. 218.

Women, Education and Empowerment: Pathways towards Autonomy, Report of the International Seminar held at UIE, Hamburg, 27 January – 2 February 1993, edited by Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo,UIE(UNESCO Institute for Education) Studies 5 • 1995, Robert Seemann u Neumann p.15

Ibid., p.15

Women, Education and Empowerment: Pathways towards Autonomy, Report of the International Seminar held at UIE, Hamburg, 27 January – 2 February 1993, edited by Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo,UIE(UNESCO Institute for Education) Studies 5 • 1995, Robert Seemann u Neumann p.16.

“Results confirm the existence and upward shifting position of the U curve. Hence, the U curve estimates suggests that there is a “time element” involved in womens’ empowerment.” Dr. Sanjukta Chaudhuri, December, 2009, Economic Development and Women’s Empowerment, from


Haimanti Mukhopadhyay, The Role of Education in the Empowerment of Women in a District of West Bengal, India: Reflections on a Survey of Women , Journal of International Women‟s Studies Vol. 10 #2 November 2008, P. 217.


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