Step-by-Step: Climbing the ‘Ladder of Freedom and Power’ in Fiji and PNG

Author/s: Priya Chattier

This In Brief will identify the main pathways or factors that lead to an increased sense of power and freedom for men and women in selected communities of Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Fiji and PNG were part of the World Bank’s qualitative study informing the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, for which local researchers organised focus groups to systematically record the factors that women and men in the study saw as helping to increase their feelings of empowerment. In the broader gender and development literature, Naila Kabeer’s (1999, 436) conceptualisation of empowerment is noted as the ‘expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them’. The aim of this In Brief is to move beyond such academic concepts and instead explore local understandings and common terms for power and freedom. The identified pathways presented do not represent a complete picture, but are a starting point to understanding local perceptions of empowerment as well as whether or not inequalities inherent in gender norms can create different sets of opportunities for women and men in Melanesian societies. Understanding transitions in gender norms (Chattier 2014) is critical for making sense of why women and men have different pathways to power and freedom.

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  • Organisation commissioning the research: SSGM
  • Date Published: March 31, 2015
  • Language published in: English
  • Search keywords: Power, Freedom, Gender Norms, Empowerment, Melanesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, PNG