Author: To, Kit-lai Linda
Title: Empowering women : strategies of working with female workers
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2001
Subject: Women -- Employment -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: 3, 199 leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
Abstract: In the last decade of the women's movement in Hong Kong, many empowerment programs and activities were carried out by organizations to empower grassroots women, aimed at strengthening their individual ability to policy change. Amongst the grassroots women, female workers especially middle age low income female workers were one of the target groups which women's organizations, non-government organizations and trade unions claimed to work toward their empowerment. Different strategies were adopted according to their conception of empowerment. Whether the different meaning of empowerment which adopted different strategies in working with female workers have different impact to the women and whether the empowering process is liberating to empower the women or is regulating to disempower them are the questions to be answered in this study. Therefore, the objectives of this study are firstly, to examine the organizers from a trade union, a non-government welfare organization and a women's organization, their conception towards empowerment and the strategies adopted. Secondly, is to examine the perception of the female workers toward their empowering experiences, in relation to their self perception and political and gender awareness. Thirdly, is to examine the power relations between the organizers and the female workers within the empowering process and the impact on the empowerment of the female workers. Finally, is to explore the possible alternative conception of empowerment and strategies and their application to the empowerment of female workers. Liberal, structural and feminist perspective towards empowerment and Amy Allen's framework ( Allen,1999) in conceiving power as resource, power as domination and power as empowerment is adopted for analyzing the organizers' conception of empowerment. Karen Baistow's (Baistow,1994-95) discussion on the dilemma within the empowerment discourse as liberatory or regulatory provides a central focus to analyze the impact of the empowerment on female workers. Finally illuminated by the postmodern perspective on empowerment and Foucault's conception of power, a redefinition of the meaning of empowerment and alternative strategies of working with female workers are proposed for future consideration. The researcher was previously involved in the women's organization that was being interviewed in this study as organizer for four years. Also, because of the previous working experiences with women workers, the researcher bad some work contacts with the other two organizations namely the trade union and the welfare organization usually under the context of women's coalition work. This links with the interviewed organizers had given the researcher a better position to build up trust and cooperation with them during the process of data collection. Findings of the study indicated that the three organizations adopted a different conception of empowerment according to their political orientation and conception of power. In brief, the trade union adopted Marxist feminist perspective, the welfare organization adopted liberal feminist perspective and the women's organization adopted socialist feminist perspective. Due to their difference in conceiving power they used different strategies to empower the women. Strategies ranging from self-help groups and social skills training programs to social action and advocacy work. These different strategies have specific impact to the female workers and the ways they perceived their problems. Although from the subjective experiences of the female workers, the empowering programs did help to raise their self confidence and self efficacy to certain extend, the power relation between the female workers and the organizer/organization still remained oppressive. The organizers were the superior and the female workers as inferior within the working relationship. The empowerment experience became disempowering to the fema1e workers under the liberal and structural perspectives on empowerment. The postmodern perspective on empowerment and Foucault's conception of power illuminated to break the dilemma which rested in the power relation between the organizer and the female workers. Discussion on the alternative perspective on the concept of empowerment and for future strategizing to empower female workers is to conclude the study.
Access: open access

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