Poverty Reduction and Pro-Poor Growth

The Role of Empowerment

image of Poverty Reduction and Pro-Poor Growth

Empowerment of those living in poverty is both a critical driver and an important measure of poverty reduction. It is the decisions and actions of poor people themselves that will bring about sustainable improvements in their lives and livelihoods. Inequitable power relations exclude poor people from decision-making and prevent them from taking action. Sustainable poverty reduction needs poor people to be both the agents and beneficiaries of economic growth - to directly participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth processes.  Strengthening poor people’s organizations, providing them with more control over assets and promoting their influence in economic governance will improve the terms on which they engage in markets. This economic empowerment combined with political and social empowerment will make growth much more effective in reducing poverty. This report aims to build donor understanding of empowerment and how best to support it.


Executive summary

Inequity and power imbalances, adverse employment conditions and the lack of economic opportunities or control over assets are all manifestations of peoples’ disempowerment and contribute to their poverty. The empowerment of poor people secures their rights and drives pro-poor growth. However, empowerment must happen through people’s own actions and is enabled by a supportive environment which donors can help strengthen. Empowerment takes time, sustained engagement and the ability to balance short-term results with long term impacts. Aid instruments should be designed to facilitate empowerment and encourage its multi-dimensional effects. Within their projects and programmes, donors must deal with inequitable power relations and be aware of their own role within such relations. The Policy Guidance Note “Empowerment for pro-poor growth” which opens this collection of ten Good Practice Notes, considers the causal relationship between empowerment and pro-poor growth: how inequity and power imbalances lead to both market failures and political, social and legal inequities that prevent poor people from investing in raising their productivity and production to increase their incomes and increasing their own voice within their own society and community.


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