Social Empowerment refers to the enabling force that strengthens women’s social relations and their position in social structures. Social empowerment addresses the social discriminations existing in the society based on disability, race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Empowerment as a methodology is often associated with feminism. Broadly put, the term empowerment is defined as “a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities and in their society, by acting on issues they define as important” (Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/1999october/comm1.php). A nearly similar definition has been given by Valsamma Antony (The Kurukshetra, February 2006, p. 27). She considers that, “Empowerment of women is a multi-dimensional process, which should enable the individuals or a group of individuals to realize their full identity and powers in all spheres of life.” Empowerment of women means enjoyment of equal rights, equal status and freedom of self-development with men. Valsamma Antony quoted Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR, in one of her articles. Gorbachev opined that, “The status of women is a barometer of the democratism of any state, an indicator of how human rights are respected in it” (ibid). From a sociological point of view, K.D. Gangrade (2001) has extended a definition of empowerment. He considers women’s empowerment as “… equal status to women opportunity and freedom to develop herself.” Women are exploited in almost every society. Srivastava (2001) observes women’s empowerment from the perspective of their vulnerability to various kinds of exploitations. He envisages that it is necessary to “empowering women socially, economically and politically so that they can break away from male domination and claim equality with them.” Health is another important factor for achieving total development of human beings. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a positive health status is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”(The Kurukshetra, October 2002, p. 22.). Mira Shiva (2001) feels, “Women’s empowerment means that women no matter where they are healthy, have enough for their needs, their own survival and that of their family and community, to be able to live with dignity, live and work in safe and caring environment, which allows their growth and holistic development i.e., physically, emotionally, socially, economically.” Legal experts and lawyers have viewed and analyzed women’s empowerment from their own perspectives. The preamble to the Charter of the United Nations emphasizes upon the member states “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women” (Levin, Leah, 2002, p. VI). Sujata Manohar (2001) defines women’s empowerment in this respect. She envisages that, “The key to women’s empowerment is recognition and enforcement of women’s human rights.” In the light of ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the law,’ the legal experts want to bring down all kinds of legal discrimination against women. Without the establishment of women’s legal rights and human social order women’s real empowerment will be a distant dream. Empowerment of women has been defined by Griffin (1987). She has aptly pointed out that, “being able to make a contribution at all levels of society and not just in the home. Power also means having women’s contribution recognized and valued.” On the other hand, McWhirter (1994) was quoted by Aspy and Sandhu in their book – Empowering Women Equity:
A Counseling Approach.
They delineate that, “Empowerment is the process by which people, organization, or groups who are powerless or marginalized
(a) become aware of the power dynamics at work in their life context,
(b) develop the skills and capacity for gaining some reasonable control over their lives,
(c) which they exercise,
(d) without infringing on the rights of others and
(e) which coincides with actively supporting the empowerment of others in their community.”