By the end of this topic the trainee should be able to:
a) Explain the meaning of empowerment.
b) Discuss the importance of community development.
c) Discuss ways of empowering communities.
d) Discuss the factors necessary for empowerment.
e) Discuss the impact of community empowerment on community development.
Meaning of empowerment
It refers to giving lawful power/authority to an individual a group and institution or a community to act and control their destiny.
Empowerment brings together people of diverse background to clarify their deals and to make sense of their experiences.
The principle of empowerment is not to help people do anything that may that they can do themselves but instead they are s strongly committed to ownership of problems and solution based on a feeling of genuine participation.
Empowerment is strategy that moves the development agencies as it involves the practice of full participation of the community members on their activities.
The process of empowerment requires heavy investments in terms of funds human and other resources in a bid to realize self-reliance and sustainable development in the community.
N/B most of the groups to be empowered became empowered due to the fact that they share common disadvantages in the community/society e.g. the physically challenged.
Importance of community empowerment
1. It facilitates exchange of ideas among community members and the change agents concerning the development work thus both parties through the exchange of ideas learn on how to achieve self reliance and sustainable development through awareness programmers and campaigns.
2. It helps in the development of ability of community members to run their own activities as per their own aims and objectives as well as the available resources.
3. It enhances training and retraining of development agents volunteer workers and the community developments workers through empowerment individuals and groups get to learn about ways of improving their living standards by making themselves aware of the problems they are facing (societal/community problems) e.g. lack of water, roads etc.
4. It enhances stronger optimism abut the eventual sources of development work with achievement of self reliance and sustainable development.
5. Provides a framework for creative and active thinking for development actors (change agents and community members) in solving common problems in community development work.
6. Provides greater persistence by community members in the face of obstacles and temporary set backs affecting their development endeavors.
7. Helps to facilitate technical and material support in transition period of project development
8. It assists in locating areas of resource concentration (location of rich areas in terms of resources)
9. Assist groups materially to manage projects with response to their needs as well as providing a strong commitment to development work.
Ways of empowering communities
1. Education-community members have to be educated on their rights, privileges responsibilities and the various resources and their respective sources.
2. Publication-this involves writing and printing reading materials on various subjects and aspects for community members to read and gain knowledge that can foster their own development. Materials provided for reading must create awareness among the community members and encourage and motivate them to take their own responsibility for their own developments.
3. Research-change agencies through research where they involve the community members in asking them questions, share the knowledge and information they have just acquired and in thinking about ways of getting more facts and any other essential information to the community. Through research change agents develop members capacity to identify their problems, find their causes, analyze them and formulate possible solutions thereby becoming self reliant.
4. Capacity building-this involves enhancing and strengthening the ability of community members to effectively and efficiently manage their own development activitie.It is characterized by provision of training through seminars and conferences on issues affecting individuals and communities at large.
5. Training and academic study-this entails provision of formal training/education to community members.
Factors necessary for community empowerment
1. Activities to be undertaken/done-activities that people engage in can affect their feelings of empowerment. When community members enter into a routine and repetitive activities e.g. where they omit interact briefly it creates monotony and thus discourages the optimism for empowerment.
2. Community organization system-in communities where there is high centralization of power in top leadership the middle and lower level community members find it hard to embrace empowerment. A change agent should therefore access the leadership structures on how power is shared with the community by using opinion leaders and local organizations e.g. youth groups etc.
3. Culture-these are shared values and beliefs of community members about their activities of the community and interpersonal relationship, it’s thus the totally of peoples way of life. A culture that accepts no mistakes (rigid) it discourages members from taking initiatives e.g. in problem solving where one deviates from the culturally prescribed solution. Culture with strong values on flexibility, learning and participation will support issues of an empowerment.
.Change agents should try and understand a community’s culture before implementing the empowerment programme in order to avoid resistance or conflicts.
Community members-self determination tends to threaten people who perceive themselves as the custodians of the community interest.
-people with high emotional stability and self acceptance seem more capable of dealing with responsibilities and empowerment.
-change agents therefore should identify skills and potentiality of self determination.
-the particular proactive characteristics should be sought among the members whom are to be judged with leadership responsibilities in spear heading the empowerment program/process.
Trust-empowerment is more feasible where there is high level of mutual trust among parties involved0000, trust is very important as it encourages mutual participation and a unity of command in empowerment campaigns.
Involvement of community members in programs
Community programmers are widely used to increase community empowerment and influence over what is done and how it is done. Involvement increases empowerment because it promotes a sense of belonging and togetherness among community members. (Willingness of members to participate in different programmes)
Successful empowerment programs require a dedicated leadership that is able to unite the community in the achievement of their common objectives without being torn apart by internal/external forces.
Networking and linkages
Empowered individuals or groups have high connectivity’s this include those who occupy high status such as academicians, politicians officials etc, because these people have high power and control over their destiny, the will be motivated to influence empowerment programmers and make them successful.
IMPACTS/EFFECTS ON COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
i) change in attitude
An attitude is a long term indication to perceive interpret and evaluate events and issues in a certain way. It involves attitude feelings belief values and indication to have in particular.
An empowered community will show a difference in how they perceive, interpret and evaluate events compared to how they viewed the events before empowerment.
ii) improved living standards
Empowerment controls over individual, groups, or individuals groups or individuals will thus be able to change their living standards because they have information, power to make decisions and knowledge that can improve their living conditions
iii) Economic development
Empowerment flourishes the economy because the empowered individual will take the initiative of contributing to economic development of their communities since through empowerment they get skills and knowledge and control over their activities
iv) Social development
Through networking and linkages as well as collaboration, individuals usually get social economics which assist them to develop conducive, social environment for interaction.
v) Technological advancement
Through empowerment people get to understand the importance of technology in transforming their communities and a result they will be able and willing to utilize the availability of technology resources so as to improve their living standards
vi) Self reliance
Empowerment instills skills and knowledge which make community member creative in a way they can manipulate their environment. In this case community members will be entirely dependant on themselves thus leading to independence in their development activities.
v) Sustainable development
Community members are equipped with skills to enable them utilize resources in meeting their needs without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own.