Struggles for gender justice by women’s movements have sought to give legal recognition to gender equality at both national and international levels. However, such society-wide goals may have little resonance in the lives of individual men and women in contexts where a culture of individual rights is weak or missing and the stress is on the moral economy of kinship and community. While empowerment captures the myriad ways in which intended and unintended changes can enhance the ability of individual women to exercise greater control over their own lives, it does not necessarily lead to their engagement in collective struggles for gender justice. This paper argues that ideas about citizenship, as both legal status and potential for action, can help bridge this gulf between institutional and individual change. It draws on empirical research from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to explore the extent to which efforts to empower women by development organisations have also encompassed discourses of citizenship which allow them to articulate, and act on, their vision for a just society.
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17496535.2012.704055