Understanding the influence of development interventions on women beneficiaries' perceptions of empowerment: A case study in South Sulawesi, Indonesia
This thesis argues that international development interventions influence the way women perceive empowerment. It does so by looking at aid relationships and the relevance of development interventions. It involves a case study of Oxfam’s Restoring Coastal Livelihoods Project (2010-2015) in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Efforts to empower women have been channeled through various approaches. However, little has been said about the practice of aid relations within projects and how aid relations work through the ‘aid chain’ and influence women’s perceptions of empowerment. Also, there has not been much said about how, in the intersectionality of aid relationships, women make ‘empowerment’ their own, appropriate it, transform it, adapt it to their stories and needs through their active engagement in projects. The qualitative research which involved a five-month period of ethnographic research found that women beneficiaries perceived empowerment mostly based on their experiences in the project. However, the degree of empowerment is relative to the types of women’s engagement, the nature of activities, and their general understanding of gender relations. The project has brought economic-driven gender awareness by facilitating women’s practical and strategic needs through economic groups. It has also brought empowerment consequences which went beyond the economic dimension. The research highlights the importance of personal, relational, and multidimensional aspects of empowerment in women’s perceptions of empowerment. Efforts to empower women seem to still rely on external intervention to facilitate the process and to deal with existing dynamics of power relations. The findings reassert that women’s empowerment requires enabling internal and external environments to promote women’s awareness of, and capacity for, empowerment. Finally, the thesis underlines that empowerment depends highly on women’s personal experiences, awareness, agency, resources, choice, willingness, and commitment. This research contributes to our understanding of women, aid, and development as it highlights the multidimensional and multi-layered aspects of aid relations and women’s empowerment.