Livelihoods, poverty and the empowerment of women : an Ethiopian case study
This thesis interrogates the livelihoods and empowerment strategies of first and second generation migrant women living in Kechene, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and considers the role of a microfinance intervention in supporting the empowerment of these women. They are from a craftsworking group, described by some as an Ethiopian 'caste'. The thesis starts by conceptualising a model of empowerment which employs both forgotten insights from gender and development scholarship, and recent theoretical work on intersectional identities. Modelling power in this way has important implications for development practice which seeks to support the empowerment of women. In particular, it calls into question the role of awareness-raising training and the existence of ‘false consciousness’ regarding gender inequality. The thesis goes on to consider how development policy and practice has engaged with gender equality concerns, focusing on livelihoods and in particular on the role that microfinance interventions can be expected to play in the ‘economic empowerment’ of individual women entrepreneurs, and the feminist goal of the collective empowerment of women. Women’s empowerment strategies in Kechene occur against a backdrop of acute and worsening economic want, which both loosens social ties with rural areas, and mitigates against women in Kechene establishing strong social networks with each other. Social capital is of key importance in women’s empowerment strategies. Yet weak social networks, together with lack of markets for women's own-account businesses, and membership of relatively stable crafts-based household economies, leads many women to opt not to advance their strategic gender interests. Instead they continue to invest in the traditional social capital of marriage and family. The thesis concludes that to construct the Kechene findings as a failure - of a donor agency to support feminist empowerment, or of women to engage with agendas of empowerment - would be to conflate the two distinct aims of collective empowerment of women as a marginalised group, and individual empowerment of women whose interests are wider than strategic gender interests. The thesis concludes by discussing some of the implications of the model of empowerment advanced within it, for development policy and practice.