Journal Article - Cambridge Review of International Affairs
Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women's Post-Conflict Empowerment Initiatives
Over the past decade, the term 'empowerment' has been generously employed and woefully ill-defined. In particular, women's empowerment has been embraced by such a vast number of development actors that it appears to be a unifying mission within development. Despite the boom in women's empowerment initiatives, there remains little critical analysis of the use of empowerment in general, and the perceived success or failures of specific empowerment initiatives. Using the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in Sierra Leone as a case study, this paper examines how reintegration was described as a source of empowerment for women. Drawing from interviews and analysis of related policy discourses, it is argued that, rather than representing a radical shift in development approaches towards more inclusive and representative policies, empowerment projects are shaped by neoliberal ideas such as individualism, responsibility and economic order and carry implicit, gendered and disciplining messages about appropriate social behaviour.