We have all heard the saying – Give a man a fish, you take care of his hunger for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you take care of his hunger for a lifetime. This can be considered the simplest and the easiest example of economic empowerment.
Let us analyse this statement. In order to take care of his hunger for a lifetime, you could teach the man how to fish, provide him with the tools required, give some money so he could buy the tools, or lend him some money at an agreed upon interest rate, or arrange for buyers to buy his fish.
You have started the process of economic empowerment the moment you decided to do something beyond taking care of his hunger for a day.
The basic needs of a person can be satisfied with money. Some of us work for others for money, and others create work and employment, and in the process, earn money for themselves.
Some of us sell products for money, and others offer services in return for money.
The money earn is utilized in meeting the basic requirements, and then the remaining money is either saved and deposited in banks or invested into something that can give us returns.
Economic empowerment is about enabling a person to partake in the above mentioned processes. Further, it is about uplifting a person or a society from not being able to do any of the above mentioned activities to being able to do all of it.
Definition Of Economic Empowerment
The development of the ability to involve and engage in profitable activities that benefits a person and the broader society is the definition of economic empowerment.
By becoming able to engage in an economic activity, the person stops depending on other individuals or agencies for his or her own primary needs. This is mastering the art of living.
He moves out of the welfare programs and similar agencies that focus on giving a man a fish and taking care of his hunger for a day.
Economic activity is an activity that involves making, providing, buying or selling of goods or services. It is an activity that requires exchange of money.
The person who is involved in an economic activity either earns money or pays money. The only expectation from the activity is that it has to follow the rules of the land and all the transactions have to be transparent to the government agencies.
The activity could be selling homemade pastries, or maneuvering an airplane. It could be writing articles for a website or owning a laundromat.
Economic empowerment can also be defined as providing the means, or presenting the ways for individuals to control their own economic future.
It is an effort to make individuals self sufficient and self-reliant.
We all know that money plays a very important role in making anyone feel self sufficient. However, economic empowerment is much more than providing financial aid.
The economic activity of an entire country is reflected in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A healthy economic environment conducive for economic activities in a country is reflected in its higher GDP and an unfavorable economic environment is projected as a low GDP of that country.
When we talk about empowerment of any section of the society, economic empowerment is one of the most important aspects.
In fact we hear a lot in the media about economic empowerment of the black community, economic empowerment of women, economic empowerment of minorities, and economic empowerment of youths, youth at risk, and so on.
This is mostly because empowerment is primarily required for those who have a historical disadvantage. It has to be presented to those who were denied opportunities earlier. The lack of power is directly associated with the lack of opportunities.
The society and the social processes affect the economic capabilities of the members of that society and the economic capabilities of the members impact the social processes of that society.
Social traditions often lay out a lot of rules and these rules can either encourage or discourage people from working towards economic empowerment.
Hence, we often use the terms social empowerment and economic empowerment together. We talk about the socioeconomic empowerment of various sections of our society.
What Is Economic Empowerment
What is economic empowerment and how can we empower a person economically?
There are different ways of uplifting a person economically and empowering him or her:
- We can empower a person by providing financial assistance to a person.
- That money can be used to complete education and acquire knowledge which will in turn help that person to get a job and earn a living.
- That money can be used as an investment to start a business which will help him to earn profits. That money can even be used as a medical aid to fix a health problem that will enable the person in getting back to work and thus earning money.
- We can empower a person by imparting technical knowledge.
Technical knowledge that can help a person to acquire a job or start a business and make money from it.
The example of teaching a man how to fish, clearly falls in this category. By teaching him how to fish we are imparting a technical knowledge that he can cash on. He can either teach that skill to others and make money in the process or catch fish and sell it in the market and make money.
We can empower a person by being a support for that person.
Even with financial aid and knowledge, sometimes people hesitate in taking a step towards empowerment for lack of moral support and confidence.
By being a support motivating and encouraging him to take action and mentoring him or coaching him, we can nudge a person towards economic empowerment.
When there is a legacy of discrimination and injustice, empowerment can mean much more than just providing them with the economic aid and support.
When people come from such economically backward backgrounds, where they have never seen anyone achieve economic independence, they need hand holding for a longer period of time in order for them to feel empowered.
When people don’t believe they are capable, it helps when someone else believes in their capabilities until a time when they start believing in themselves.
Economic Empowerment Programs
There are economic empowerment programs run by different agencies in every part of the world.
These programs are designed to provide economic aid to those who require it and help them take control of their lives by becoming economically independent.
These programs are designed to provide opportunities and pave a path for sustainable success.
There are specific programs for women, for youth, for people with disabilities, for people who have survived difficult life circumstances like abuse and exploitation, for people who are not accepted in society, and other examples.
These economic empowerment programs focus on activities like:
Job training – Job training provided at these programs increases their skill levels and their readiness for employment. It enables them to get a better job at a much better salary.
Increasing their financial acumen – Financial knowledge enables them to make better money-related decisions. They become comfortable handling money and do not shy away from terms like savings or investments.
Making them aware of rights and financial aids – A lot of people are not aware of financial aids provided by the Government to help people in need. By making them aware, they can avail themselves of these Government provisions.
Liaising between them and investors or financiers – There are a lot of people who are willing to support others in need of financial assistance. Identifying and bringing them to the people who need help is a tough task and is done through these economic empowerment programs.
Establishing a platform for them to interact and network – By bringing together different parties, these programs enable networking which is very important for growing businesses. People from different and otherwise disconnected backgrounds are brought together by these agencies. This networking provides them with great opportunities.
Opening up newer markets for them – A lot of times, these programs open up wider and newer markets from across the globe to those who are a part of such programs. Markets that they wouldn’t be able to access by themselves.
Incubating their business in its nascent stages – Every new venture takes time to establish and they need support (finance, space, people etc.) during that time. These programs help people by hand holding them during this phase.
Forming support groups for them to work together – Support groups for people from similar backgrounds, going through similar circumstances and trying to empower themselves, play a big role in their upliftment.
Helping them develop communication skills, leadership skills, etc. – Soft Skills that can help them in taking their small ventures into greater heights are taught as part of these empowerment programs.
Showing them role models – Through these programs they meet and learn about people from similar backgrounds who have achieved economic empowerment for themselves and have helped others too in the process. These people become role models for them to follow. It is important for them to know that people like them have done it before them.
A permanent escape from poverty and economic dependency is the goal of an economic development program.
Every country has many such programs because the development, progress and empowerment of a nation depends on the development, progress and empowerment of every individual in that country.
Contributors: Kazim Abasali and Deepa K.