Author: Marcia Macedo
The debate on women's empowerment in Brazil focuses primarily on the difficulty of articulating consensus around issues regarding gender equity. This is especially true regarding the formulation of strategic policies for the eradication of inequality through enlarging women's access to resources and political power. For many Brazilian feminists, “empowerment” is directly associated with international development agencies such as the World Bank. Thus it is seen as a “de-politicized” term imposed by theoretical and political “fashion” and alien to the objectives of real change toward a more equitable society. The analysis of the documents produced by the Brazilian government with the First National Plan of Policies for Women denotes the high level of rejection of the term “empowerment”. This, plan was formulated in 2004 with the participation of feminist and women's movements throughout the country. Though it is obvious that notions of women's empowerment sustain the plan, the term itself does not appear in the final documents presented by the National Bureau for Public Policy for Women. Nevertheless, in the Second National Plan of Policies for Women (formulated in 2007), Brazil's commitment to the elimination of gender discrimination, along with new thinking in Brazilian feminist theory and practice regarding women's empowerment as a privileged means of building gender equity, is evident. The term “empowerment” now appears six times in the official document. Whether this implies the adoption of a truly new perspective on women's empowerment or simply reflects the superficial adoption of “politically correct” terminology remains to be seen. This paper (in Portuguese), presented to 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Analysis Conference, Cairo, 20-24 January 2009, will examine this issue in an attempt to come to some conclusion on conceptualizations of women's empowerment in contemporary Brazilian policy and planning.