Belfer Center Home > Publications > Academic Papers & Reports > Journal Articles > Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women's Post-Conflict Empowerment Initiatives

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

"Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women's Post-Conflict Empowerment Initiatives"

Women from the Pro-independence Polisario Front rebel soldiers are seen during a military parade in the Western Sahara village of Tifariti, May 19, 2008 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Polisario Army.
AP Photo

"Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women's Post-Conflict Empowerment Initiatives"

Journal Article, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, volume 22, issue 2, pages 199-215

June 2009

Author: Megan Mackenzie, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program/Women in Public Policy Program, 2008–2009

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security



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.


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Mackenzie, Megan. "Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women's Post-Conflict Empowerment Initiatives." Cambridge Review of International Affairs 22, no. 2 (June 2009): 199-215.

Bookmark and Share

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.