Is ‘Empowerment’ the Answer?: Current Theory and Research on Development Communication

By Robert A. White - 2008

Recent theories of communication for development consider the lack of political, economic and cultural power of lower-status sectors as the central problem to be addressed in development. The majority do not have access to the education, technical assistance, good health and housing needed to make a contribution to national development. A deeper issue is the cultural values which see minorities such as women as not capable of making a contribution. Thus, the new movements seek to ‘empower’ themselves by resignifying the meaning of gender, youth, race, ethnicity and region as key actors in the development process and therefore as worthy of access to resources. Empowerment is central to the process of development, but empowerment, it is argued, needs to be located within a broader framework, which sees the goal of development as the cultural and political acceptance of universal human rights. Power must be seen as a source of social responsibility and service. Movements cannot stop at their own empowerment but must gain the respect for the rights of all in the society.

Gazette. The International Journal for Development Studies. Vol. 66(1): 7–24 (2004). PDF.

By Robert A. White| 2008


Communication rights enable all people everywhere to express themselves individually and collectively by all means of communication. They are vital to full participation in society and are, therefore, universal human rights belonging to every man, woman, and child.


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