Social Empowerment: Meaning, Need and Initiatives

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        
output themes

Social empowerment is the process of enabling people to emerge from their subordinate position (vulnerable section) and achieve self-sufficiency.

  • It means to have control over the factors and decisions to improve conditions, increase build capacities through access to education, and other developmental services.
  • It is viewed as the process of fostering a sense of independence and self-assurance etc.
  • Perceptions of being empowered vary across time, culture, and domains of a person’s life:
  • A person from a low caste feels empowered when they are given a fair hearing in a public gathering
  • A woman from a traditional home feel empowered if she is permitted to leave the house unaccompanied by a guy.
  • A transgender feel empowered when she is given employment.

Key Concepts Related with Social Empowerment:

  • Agency: This is the capacity of individuals to act independently and make their own free choices.
  • Social Mobility: This refers to the ability of an individual or family to move up or down the social and economic ladder within a society.
  • Empowerment: It focuses on processes that enable participation, enhance control, and foster action that leads to the individual's or community's desired outcomes.
  • Social Capital: This refers to the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.
  • Intersectionality: This is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
  • Conscientization: A term that refers to the process of developing a critical awareness of one's social reality through reflection and action.
  • Relative Deprivation: This refers to the conscious feeling of negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities, often driving empowerment movements.
  • Social Inclusion: This is the process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background.
  • Collective Action: This is action taken together by a group of people whose goal is to enhance their status and achieve a common objective, often used as a means of social empowerment.

Who is Vulnerable Section? 

A vulnerable section or socially disadvantaged group is one that has some specific characteristics that make it at higher risk of falling into poverty than others.

  • Scheduled tribes
  • Women
  • Scheduled castes
  • Minorities
  • Senior citizens
  • Persons with disabilities

Challenges Faced by Socially Disadvantaged Groups


Need for Social Empowerment:

  • Reduce Social Inequality: Empowerment can help bridge gaps caused by social, economic, and political disparities.
  • Foster Self-efficacy: Empowerment boosts individuals' confidence in their capacity to control their lives and claim their rights.
  • Promote Social Justice: It can enable marginalized groups to achieve equitable access to resources and opportunities.
  • Facilitate Social Integration: By empowering excluded groups, it can promote social cohesion and inclusivity.
  • Enhance Democratic Participation: Empowered individuals can participate more effectively in societal decision-making processes.
  • Enable Resource Access: Empowerment can help individuals or groups access key resources and services.
  • Encourage Collective Action: It can inspire individuals to work together to drive societal change.
  • Contribute to Individual and Societal Well-being: Empowered individuals can contribute to stronger, healthier communities.
  • Challenge and Change Power Structures: Empowerment can lead to a reshaping of societal norms and power relations.
  • Encourage Social Innovation: Empowered individuals or groups are more likely to challenge the status quo and innovate for the betterment of society.

Schedule tribes 

Article 366 of the constitution defines the scheduled tribe as “such tribes or tribal communities or part of or

groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to the Scheduled Tribes (STs) for this Constitution”. 

Area of concern for Tribes

  • Land and resource rights: Encroachments, displacement, and lack of recognition of their traditional land rights can lead to loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage.
  • Socio-economic marginalization: Limited economic opportunities and inadequate infrastructure further exacerbate socio-economic marginalization, including poverty, lack of access to education, healthcare, sanitation, and basic amenities.
  • Cultural preservation and identity: Tribal communities face the risk of losing their cultural traditions, language, and identity due to assimilation, acculturation, and modernization.
  • Discrimination and exclusion: Prejudice and stereotyping can perpetuate social inequalities and hinder tribal’s socio-economic progress.
  • Health disparities: Factors such as geographical remoteness, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, and lack of culturally sensitive healthcare provision contribute to health disparities among tribal populations.
  • Displacement and forced relocation: Development projects, infrastructure initiatives, and conflicts often result in the displacement of tribal communities from their ancestral lands, disrupts their social fabric, traditional livelihoods, and cultural practices, leading to loss of identity and economic hardships.
  • Exploitation and vulnerability: Tribal communities are vulnerable to exploitation, including labor exploitation, human trafficking, and marginalization in the context of natural resource extraction.
  • Educational challenges: Tribal communities often face significant challenges in accessing quality education.
  • Environmental degradation: Environmental degradation, deforestation, climate change, and loss of biodiversity adversely impact their livelihoods and traditional practices dependent on natural resources.
  • Lack of representation and voice: Tribal communities often have limited representation in decision-making processes, both at local and national levels. Their voices are often marginalized, leading to inadequate policies and initiatives addressing their specific needs and aspirations.

Steps taken by Government for Tribal Empowerment

  • Separate Tribal ministry was set up in 1999.
  • The Stand-Up India scheme (2016) grants SC/ST/Women with a loan from Rs.10 lakhs to Rs.1 crore to promote traditional entrepreneurship.
  • Van Dhan Scheme (2018): 10 SHGs of 30 tribal gatherers (Van Dhan Vikas Samuh) will be formed with an aid of working capital to enhance the forest products.
  • Van Dhan Vikas Kendra (2018): To provide skill upgradation, capacity building, training, and setting up of primary processing and value addition facilities.
  • PM Janjatiya Vikas Scheme (2021) seeks to achieve tribal development in the next five years through the formation of Van Dhan groups.
  • Tribal and Harijan Research Institutes are set up in the following states- MP, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, and Rajasthan to study the tribal lifestyle, art, and customs for their protection and documentation.
  • Marketing And Logistics Development for Promotion of Tribal Products from North Eastern Region (PTP-NER) (2023) to transform of the tribal Ecosystem in the North-East by strengthening livelihood opportunities for tribal artisans through increased efficiency in procurement, logistics, and marketing of tribal products from North Eastern States.

Conclusion: It is important to note that the challenges faced by tribes are complex and multifaceted, requiring comprehensive approaches that respect their rights, preserve their culture, and address socio-economic disparities. Efforts towards inclusive development, participatory governance, and the protection of their rights can contribute to addressing these problems and promoting their well-being.