Thursday, September 17, 2009

Logics of Empowerment

Logics of Empowerment in Neoliberal India
Aradhana Sharma
University of Minnesota Press
111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5453-6

A book review by Carol Hoyer

Ms. Sharma has written a very informative book on the conditions of and neglect of marginalized women in India. As a feminist, the author provides support for her theories from her twenty months of ethnographic research in north India.

In the introduction, the author talks about how media and government portray that all is well in India. As most governments, India tends to by-pass those who are seen as non-essential individuals; those living in poverty and those who don’t receive the necessary education or training to improve their lives.

The author relates that it is not her intent in this book to say whether empowerment programs are successes or failures, but her intent is to examine how empowerment is conceptualized and implemented. As a psychologist I have always found the word “empowerment” is used haphazardly and to one’s own convenience.

As with many programs for the marginalized individuals, government leaves little room for education and critical thinking. The aim of government is to ignore these issues and use the innovative programs when they need them.

The Mahila Samakhya program is a program that was developed to help educate the marginalize women of India. Each village had a mentor of sorts and groups of women meet to discuss their concerns and set goals on how to accomplish change. Over time, the government tried to gain more control of what was being taught by using funds and voting privileges to their advantage. An example of this is when the government can say, “Look we have so many empowered women,” and choose to let them vote when needed or show off their changes when meeting with other governmental officials.

This is not a book that is easy to breeze through. And many who are anti-feminist will not want to even open it. Readers must read slowly and let the information sink in and compare the research to what they know. The information provided by the author is some that can be used in other countries and the Mahila Samakhya program has many resources to share.