Sponsored By: National Commission for Women, Government of INDIA

Summary of Project : Backwardness among rural women is such more severe to various socio-economic and cultural reasons. International, national and local government organizations and non- government organizations are involved in various experiments of women empowerment in backward regions. Empowerment results from control over resources and the power to take decisions on all major issues concerned. The empowerment process encompasses several mutually reinforcing components but begins with and supported by economic independence. Empowerment would consist of greater access to knowledge and resources, greater autonomy in decision-making and free them from shackles imposed on them by custom, belief and practice. Since the 1990’s women have been identified as key agents of sustainable development and women’s equality and empowerment are seen as central to a more holistic approach towards establishing new patterns and processes of development that are sustainable. The World Bank has suggested that empowerment of women should be a key aspect of all social development programs (World Bank, 2001). Although a considerable debate on what constitutes empowerment exists, in this study we find it useful to rely on Kabeer’s (2001) definition: "The expansion in people's ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them." For women in India, this suggests empowerment in several realms: personal, familial, economic and political.

Since the 1980’s the Government of India has shown increasing concern for women's issues through a variety of legislation promoting the education and political participation of women. International organizations like the World Bank and United Nations have focused on women’s issues especially the empowerment of poor women in rural areas. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also taken on an increased role in the area of women’s empowerment. NGO’s, previously catering to women’s health and educational needs, have moved beyond this traditional focus to addressing the underlying causes of deprivations through promoting the economic and social empowerment of women. There are many challenges that face NGOs who make it their goal to empower women. This study addresses one specific challenge that is faced by NGOs located in rural areas especially in Rajasthan that wishes to promote women’s empowerment. Low self-efficacy beliefs of women in rural India often stem from the limited and disadvantaged positions women have in society. This makes any behaviour change towards self-empowerment difficult if it merely relies on verbal persuasion. The best way by which self-efficacy is acquired is by combining persuasion with role modelling in a supportive and appreciative environment.

The objective of Study is as under