An exploration of the routes to empowerment for older women?
Older women have been perceived as among the least powerful groups m
society expenencmg poverty both as older people and as women.
Contemporary challenges to oppression and discrimination, associated with age
and gender, together with the social policy focus on combating social
exclusion, raise important questions about i) the meanings of social inclusion
and exclusion to older women, and ii) the ways in which older women act to
achieve a sense of social inclusion.
The notions of social inclusion and exclusion are closely linked with the
concept of power, and the associated processes of empowerment and
disempowerment. Within a theoretical framework based on developing
conceptions of power, this thesis examines the role of collective action in
achieving a sense of inclusion and empowerment.
In-depth interviews were carried out with thirty-seven older women selected to
reflect their involvement in four contrasting types of collective action:
• political action groups emphasising consciousness raising and change;
• organisations emphasising social/leisure activities;
• group activity based around learning/education;
• voluntary activity
as well as a group of women who, through choice or circumstances, were not
involved in collective action.
Emerging themes were shared/reviewed/refined with five small groups made
up of original participants in order to achieve a participatory and iterative
process of interpretation, maximising the validity and utility of the findings.
The study extends knowledge and understanding of the processes and
dynamics of empowering change in the lives of older women, and in particular
the potential of different forms of collective action for older women to support
processes of empowerment and achieve a sense of social inclusion. It suggests
that older women do not simply succumb to their circumstances, they can and
do take action. However, it is important to appreciate that these actions are not
always viewed as political or as resistance.