International Labour Organization
South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team
ILO/SEAPAT's OnLine Gender Learning & Information Module

Unit 1: A conceptual framework for gender analysis and planning

Some gender planning approaches and strategies

Women’s Empowerment Framework 

Aims of the framework
Uses of the framework
Strengths of the framework
Potential limitations

This framework was developed by Sara Hlupekile, a gender expert from Lusaka, Zambia.

Aims of the framework


Longwe argues that poverty arises not from lack of productivity but from oppression and exploitation. She conceptualises five progressive levels of equality, arranged in hierarchical order, with each higher level denoting a higher level of empowerment. These are the basis to assess the extent of women’s empowerment in any area of social or economic life. The levels of equality are:
Control Using the participation of women in the decision-making process to achieve balance of control between men and women over the factors of production, without one in a position of dominance.
Participation Pertains to women’s equal participation in the decision-making process, policy-making, planning and administration. In development projects, it includes involvement in needs assessment, project design, implementation and evaluation.
Conscientisation Pertains to an understanding of the difference between sex roles and gender roles and the belief that gender relations and the gender division of labour should be fair and agreeable to both sides, and not based on the domination of one over the other
Access Pertains to women’s access to factors of production¾ land, labour, credit, training, marketing facilities, and all publicly available services and benefits¾ on an equal basis with men. Equality of access is obtained by securing equality of opportunity through legal reform to remove discriminatory provisions.
Welfare Pertains to level of material welfare of women, relative to men, with respect to food supply, income and medical care, without reference to whether women are themselves the active creators and producers of their material needs
Longwe also distinguishes between
women’s issues which pertain to equality with men in any social or economic role and involving any of the levels of equality
women’s concerns which pertain to women’s traditional and subordinate, sex-stereotyped gender roles
The women’s empowerment framework identifies three levels of recognition of women’s issues in project design:
Negative level where project objectives are silent about women’s issues. Experience suggests that women are likely to be left worse off by such a project
Neutral level where the project objectives recognise women’s issues but concern remains neutral or conservative, merely ensuring that women are not left worse off than before
Positive level where project objectives are positively concerned with women’s issues and with improving the position of women relative to men
The framework can be used to produce profiles as below:
Levels of Recognition Levels of Equality

Women’s Empowerment Framework for a Country Programme
Level of concern with women’s development
Sector Project Welfare Access Conscientisation Participation Control
Women’s projects            
Uses of the framework Strengths of the framework Potential limitations [Adapted from Training Workshop for Trainers in Women, Gender and Development, June 9-21, 1996, Programme Handbook, Royal Tropical Institute, The Netherlands.]

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For further information, please contact the South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary
Advisory Team (SEAPAT) at Tel: +63.2.815.2354 or Fax: +63.2.812.6143

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This page was revised  by SF. It was approved by WRB. It was last updated on 2 November 1998.