No Visible Difference: A Women’s Empowerment Process in a Cambodian NGO

Citation:

Pearson, Jenny. 2011. “No Visible Difference: A Women’s Empowerment Process in a Cambodian NGO.” Development in Practice 21 (3): 392–404. doi:10.1080/09614524.2011.558064.

Author: Jenny Pearson

Abstract:

ENGLISH ABSTRACT

The lives of female Cambodian NGO staff are characterised by the contradictions of apparent freedom and multiple invisible constraints on their behaviour and choices. An empowerment process facilitated by an expatriate did not produce the expected responses of sisterhood and group action. Through a series of workshops, learning emerged about the context-dependent nature of concepts of empowerment, and the irrelevance of many Western models for other cultures. Fear and mistrust, rooted in both traditional culture and the post-conflict context, are powerful and profound blocks to change in women’s lives. No visible difference in workplace behaviours appeared after the empowerment process. However, the women responded to new insights about their lives, beliefs, and culture in ways that had meaning for them; and they reported significant benefits for family and social relationships.

FRENCH ABSTRACT

La vie des femmes qui travaillent pour les ONG cambodgiennes se caractérise par les contradictions entre une liberté apparente et des contraintes invisibles multiples pesant sur leur comportement et leurs choix. Un processus d’autonomisation facilité par un expatrié n’a pas donné lieu aux réactions escomptées de solidarité féminine et d’action collective. À travers une série d’ateliers de travail, il a été possible d’en apprendre davantage sur la nature dépendant du contexte des concepts d’autonomisation, et sur le caractàre peu pertinent de nombreux modèles occidentaux pour d’autres cultures. La peur et la méfiance, ancrées dans la culture traditionnelle ainsi que dans le contexte post-conflit, constituent des obstacles puissants et profonds à tout changement dans la vie des femmes. Aucune différence visible n’est apparue dans les comportements sur les lieux de travail après le processus d’autonomisation. Cependant, les femmes ont réagi aux nouvelles manières de voir leur vie, leurs croyances et leur culture de fac¸ons qui ont un sens pour elles ; et elles ont signalé des avantages significatifs pour les relations familiales et sociales.

PORTUGUESE ABSTRACT

A vida de funciona´rias de uma ONG cambojanacaracterizada pelas contradic¸o˜es da aparente liberdade e mu´ltiplos limites invisı´veis em seu comportamento e escolhas. Um processo de empoderamento promovido por um expatriado na˜o produziu as respostas esperadas de irmandade e ac¸a˜o de grupo. Atrave´s de uma se´rie de workshops, surgiu um aprendizado sobre a natureza dependente do contexto dos conceitos de empoderamento e a irrelevaˆncia de va´rios modelos ocidentais para outras culturas. Medo e desconfianc¸a, arraigados na cultura tradicional e no contexto po´s-conflito, sa˜o obsta´culos poderosos e profundos para mudar a vida das mulheres. Nenhuma diferenc¸a visı´vel apareceu apo´s o processo de empoderamento nos comportamentos no local de trabalho. Pore´m, as mulheres responderam a novas ideias sobre suas vidas, convicc¸o˜es e cultura de maneira que fizesse sentido para elas; e elas relataram benefı´cios significativos para as relac¸o˜es familiares e sociais.

SPANISH ABSTRACT

Las vidas de las mujeres trabajadoras de una ONG camboyana se caracterizan por las contradicciones entre una aparente libertad y las mu´ltiples restricciones invisibles que coartan su comportamiento y sus opciones. El proceso de empoderamiento facilitado por una trabajadora extranjera no produjo la esperada hermandad entre mujeres ni acciones colectivas. El ana´lisis resultante de una serie de talleres revelo´ que los conceptos de empoderamiento esta´n ligados al contexto y que muchos modelos occidentales son irrelevantes para otras culturas. El arraigado temor y la desconfianza que se encuentran en culturas tradicionales y en contextos de posconflicto constituyen poderosos escollos para transformar la vida de las mujeres. No hubo una diferencia perceptible de las actitudes en el trabajo tras el proceso de empoderamiento. Sin embargo, las mujeres asimilaron nuevos conocimientos sobre sus vidas, creencias y cultura de manera provechosa; tambie´n reconocieron los avances importantes que lograron para sus relaciones familiares y sociales.

Keywords: civil society, gender, diversity, methods, East Asia

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, NGOs, Post-Conflict Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2011

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