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Second, we propose that the three dimensions are related but that the directionality of the model is not fixed. In line with this suggestion, previous psychological research conducted in the context of microfinance services stressed that women should first become aware of the options that they are individually capable of taking — i. Similarly, political scientists examining the cross-cultural development of gender equity argue that women must experience personal change before relational power distributions can change Inglehart and Norris, We recognize that this proposed sequence between personal and relational dimensions is based upon an understanding of individuals as independent agents of choice.

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Nonetheless we expect societal empowerment to develop last because societal power is deeply rooted in social systems and values. It is therefore unlikely that any single intervention will completely alter power and gender relations e. Other authors similarly argue that gender inequity within societies may ensure that increased intra-household decision-making power relational empowerment will not result in structural societal changes e.

Empowerment on the societal dimension may then best be compared with gradual social change where cultural characteristics such as norms and values change Pinquart and Silbereisen, ; de la Sablonniere, , which can bring about both cultural gains i. In sum, we suggest that time is crucial in predicting empowerment effects. First, the model suggests that the time lag between an intervention and its evaluation may influence when empowerment effects on the different dimensions are likely to be found Second, the model suggests that the three dimensions are related but that the sequence in which they can be observed depends on the implemented type of intervention.

In the current article we discussed studies conducted in a variety of different cultural contexts, such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Tanzania. Obviously, there are important differences between these cultures. Culture can be defined as the dynamic patterns of ideas, practices, institutions, products, and artifacts that are shared by certain groups of people Markus and Kitayama, While individual differences between people from the same cultural background are omnipresent, people within the same culture tend to hold similar values, beliefs, and practices e.

Across cultures, people may thus for example differ in how they construe their self-concept independent or interdependent; Markus and Kitayama, , to what extent they tolerate deviant behavior, and how strongly they adhere to social norms tight or loose cultures; Gelfand et al.

It may be crucial to consider these social norms in understanding and stimulating social change Tankard and Paluck, Indeed, due to the diversity in interventions and cultural differences, access to microfinance cannot be expected to have one single consistent impact story Garikipati et al. In fact, it has been stressed that empowerment develops through the interaction between the individual and the cultural context e.

In line with this assumption, qualitative research conducted in Guatemala concluded that local women from five communities in Chimaltenango and Quetzaltenango did not feel empowered by having sole autonomy and decision-making power within the household but rather sought the involvement of their husbands Carter, A similar conclusion was drawn based on narratives of Bangladeshi and Afghan women who chose quite different pathways of change, shaped by culturally unique norms, values and institutions, in seeking a greater degree of agency in their own lives Kabeer, While for the interviewed Afghan women awareness of different realities experienced through migration and different regimes influenced personal empowerment, for the interviewed Bangladeshi women personal empowerment translated into greater awareness of rights and willingness to fight for them on a societal level.

Moreover, how people experience each of the three dimensions of empowerment may differ based on diverse understandings of the self and the society across cultures. The authors suggest that the cooperative business ownership was more successful because it adhered to local cultural norms of social relations by emphasizing the community rather than the individual Dutt et al. Indeed, psychological scholars highlight the necessity to draw upon local understandings to resonate with local realities and better serve local communities Adams et al.

While the potential lack of generalizability and tendency to overlook problematic indigenous practices may need to be considered Adams et al. As argued in previous research, access to microfinance services may only empower women if cultural norms and expectations are taken into account e. Accordingly, it is crucial to be aware of the cultural context and the position of women in it. Previous research highlighted that culturally defined norms and practices should be considered for a transition away from classic patriarchy to develop Kandiyoti, Some form of patriarchy is prevalent across almost all cultures e.

However, psychological research indicated that cultures differ in the extent to which they value gender equity e. Importantly, these gendered norms and beliefs may mediate the relation between structural equity and female suppression Archer, Indeed, previous research reported a link between adhering to patriarchal values and sexual violence against women e. In countries where women held a weaker position in society men more frequently showed physical aggression toward women relative to the frequency with which women showed physical aggression toward men Archer, In sum, the prevalence of gender inequity may obstruct possible structural societal changes resulting from access to microfinance services e.

Empirical evidence supports this assumption. Similar conclusions were drawn based on a five-country study in Asia, which indicated that gender norms strongly influence the extent to which women experience empowerment Oppenheim Mason and Smith, To conclude, we suggest that cultures may differ with respect to which components of empowerment are appropriate indicators of empowerment.

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Accordingly, when developing interventions, cultural norms should be identified and described when presenting impacts, thereby facilitating comparison between studies. Previous research has suggested that existing misconceptions over the potential gender effects of microfinance stem from a simplistic vision of the complex process that is empowerment e. Most of the work discussed in this paper operationalized empowerment based on an understanding of women as individual agents of change.

Thus, concurring with the decolonial feminist perspective e. As such, the proposed model is most strongly substantiated in this specific context. Nonetheless, we propose that the suggested differentiation between three different dimensions may also apply to different interventions, which aim to strengthen the position of women. Additionally, in accordance with previous work e. While most of the cited research was conducted in these societies we suggest that the different dimensions of empowerment are similarly applicable to women in WEIRD Henrich et al.

For example, we propose that this framework could also be used to understand the impact of diversity and inclusion-programs in industry-settings e.

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We invite future research to use this general framework in different contexts and among different target groups. We derive two main implications from our work. As a result, stronger theories may develop regarding how and why certain components on each dimension of empowerment could be impacted by different interventions.

Empowering women is seen as one of the central issues in the process of sustainable development for many nations worldwide e. MH and NH conducted the literature review, analyzed the results, and wrote the manuscript. SO contributed to the rewriting of the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. We are grateful to Martijn van Zomeren and Julia Sasse for their valuable feedback on an earlier version of this work.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Sep Marloes A. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Huis, ln. This article was submitted to Cultural Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received May 29; Accepted Sep The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

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No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Keywords: empowerment, agency, efficacy, gender relations, women, microfinance, culture. Introduction Throughout history and across nations still today, men on average have greater access to power e.

Dimension Construct Measures Reference Personal Locus of control A scale ranging from 0 no control to 3 a strong personal control belief was constructed by the sum of three items adapted from Rotter, For each item participants were asked to choose between two options the one that best reflected their own belief. One option represented having control over life outcomes e. Morgan and Coombes, ; Hansen, Self confidence A scale was constructed based on a positive response to at least one of two questions.

Specifically, participants were asked to indicate their confidence on a scale ranging from 1 not at all to 5 very much. How confident are you that you could raise your opinion in public?

Women and Collective Action in Africa

And, neighbors often share similar problems—how confident do you feel about offering advice to your neighbor? Burra et al. Stromquist, ; Basargekar, ; Kato and Kratzer, Self-efficacy A scale ranging from 0 no self-efficacy to 3 strong self-efficacy was constructed by the sum of three scores. For each item participants were asked to indicate how many of the suggested actions they are comfortable doing. Kato and Kratzer, Relational Domestic violence Data on violence was collected through structured interviews.

Information on both physical violence e.

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Participants were asked to indicate whether any of the mentioned incidents had happened between herself and her husband in the preceding 4 months. A distinction was made between total decisions e. Pitt et al. Participants were asked to reflect on any changes — before and after group membership — in four domains, such as seeking and receiving help from others in times of personal and domestic crises. Sanyal, Collective action involvement Collective action involvement was assessed with four items assessing whether women engage in problem solving at the community level.

Participants were asked to indicate whether they would act if she faces certain problems e. Next, they were asked whether they would act by themselves, with other women, or not. The percentage of female borrowers was calculated based on the total loan portfolios of the microfinance institutions. The percentage of female leadership in microfinance institutions was based on three categories for female leadership: CEO, chair, and director. Open in a separate window. Conclusion Empowering women is seen as one of the central issues in the process of sustainable development for many nations worldwide e.

Conflict of Interest Statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Acknowledgments We are grateful to Martijn van Zomeren and Julia Sasse for their valuable feedback on an earlier version of this work. References Abdullah S.

Do women borrowers augment financial performance of MFIs? Decolonizing psychological science: introduction to the special thematic section. Intimate partner violence against women: experiences from a woman-focused development programme in Matlab, Bangladesh. Health Popul.