Concepts and approaches to the empowerment of female-headed households

According to the latest statistics of Welfare Organization, the number of women heads of households in 2011 has reached 2 million and 500 thousand people, which is 12% of the population of all Iranian families.

Higher life expectancy in women than men and an increase in elderly women whose husbands have died, as well as an increase in divorce rates, are the main reasons why women have become heads of households. 71.4% of female-headed households are widowed and 13.6% are married, 10% are divorced and 5% have never been married.

The large number of this group of women, as well as the important responsibility of taking care of the family, highlights the need to design and develop national policies and programs that address the consequences of this issue. Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations which are one of the strongest and most extensive supporting arms of the government play an important role in changing the situation of these families and can lead them to empowerment through sustainable actions taken from the heart of society. Empowerment is a participatory process that leads to the development of one’s abilities so that one accepts responsibility for his life and, by relying on these abilities, he changes his circumstances consciously.

In the series of materials on empowerment, we intend to review the main concepts and challenges and executive solutions in this area. In this issue of Barin, we will review the concepts, dimensions, and empowerment approaches. Concepts of empowerment, the word empowerment means “giving a person the power or authority to do something.” The term refers to individual empowerment and the encouragement of people to participate more in decision-making and to create a space for the creation and implementation of their ideas. The history of the first definition of the term empowerment dates back to 1788, in which empowerment was described as: the voluntary delegation given to an individual or to his or her organizational role. Also, in 1971, Groff pointed to common definitions of empowerment in dictionaries, which include delegating legal power, delegating authority, assigning, and empowering. In fact, empowerment literature has undergone many changes, until finally, in 2001, Lee identified empowerment as a platform for increasing dialogue, critical thinking, and activity in small groups .He points out that the key components of empowerments are allowing activities that moves the individuals  beyond sharing, and helps them refine their experiences, thinking, seeing and talking.

Dimensions of Spritzer and Mishra Empowerment In 1992, identified five dimensions of empowerment: 1) Feelings of self-efficacy or competence: When people become empowered, they feel effective and feel they have the ability and skill to do things successfully. 2) Feelings of self-esteem: When people voluntarily engage in their duties instead of being forced to engage in work, they feel self-reliant and consider themselves initiators and decision-makers and gain new experiences. 3) Personal acceptance of the result: Empowered people feel personal control over the results. In other words, they are self-controlled and believe in their ability to make changes in the desired direction. 4) Meaningfulness: This feeling is a value attitude and indicates the homogeneity of people’s ideals and values ​​and their work duties. 5) Trust: Empowered people have a sense of trust and security and are sure to be treated fairly and equally.

Empowerment Approaches: empowerment approaches are summarized into three categories: communication, motivational, and cognitive. In other words, in this approach, empowerment is the delegation of authority. According to the motivational approach, any strategy that leads to increasing the right to determine work activities, self-decision making and ultimately self-sufficiency of employees, will lead to their empowerment.

Assuming that, empowerment is the process of strengthening the competence of people in the organization by identifying and eliminating situations that make them feel powerless.

– Cognitive approach is the empowerment of the process of increasing internal motivation to perform assigned tasks. This process refers to the positive experiences that people gain directly from performing their duties. These experiences evoke intrinsic motivation to perform assigned tasks and ultimately lead to increased satisfaction. Thomas and Voltheus add psychological dimension to empowerment and define it as a set of cognitive-motivational domains that, in addition to self-efficacy, include three other cognitive domains, including autonomy or choice, meaning, and effectiveness.

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