Paradox of empowerment: reflections on a case study from Northern Ghana

Publication year: 

In recent years the "development" industry has began to incorporate into its vocabulary notions about the "empowerment of the poor," "participatory democracy," "gender in development" etc. as part of a strategy for poverty alleviation in the developing world. This paper critically examines the notion of participation as the basis of empowerment in the context of a joint CanadianûGhanaian financed rural development project in the Northern Region of Ghana, NORRIP (Northern Region Rural Integrated Programme), including aspects of the IVWP (integrated Village Water Project. The paper argues that because of the inherent goodness of the notion of participation, it has become a substitute for the structural reforms needed for social change. The paper raises questions not just about the terms and mode of participation but further points out that reference to the term "village" or "community" as the basis of participation is simplistic and problematic. The paper also questions the feasibility of the institutional and administrative structures within which such concepts may be realized and makes the case that a focus on local participation and empowerment can provide the state with a legitimate opportunity for shirking its responsibilities by dumping them on local areas, even though those areas lack the resources needed.

Source publication information
Journal Title: 
World development
Vol. 29 no. 1
Elsevier Science
Publisher reference: 
Elsevier Science

How to find this resource

Shelfmark in IDS Resource Centre
A : Participatory Approaches : Critical reflections 4987