Towards a Plural Financial System
Studies in Islamic Finance, Accounting and Governance series
Edited by Valentino Cattelan
Chapter 9: Women’s empowerment and Islam: open issues from the Arab world to Europe
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2008) defines ‘empowerment’ as ‘give authority or power to; authorize’, thus referring to the need for somebody to ‘give’ power or authority to someone else. Therefore, it depicts a relationship between individuals where the one holding power is willing to share it with the one who’s lacking in it, even if the idea of ‘sharing’ can be in some cases expressed more realistically by the words ‘grant’, ‘give’, ‘accord’. Looking at the Internet as the most popular source of information worldwide, Wikipedia explains empowerment by saying that it ‘refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their capacities.’ In this wider perspective, empowerment can also be seen as a social phenomenon within which first the society and then the law change the rules of the game and introduce new actors with new powers and abilities. With this meaning, ‘empowerment’ has been widely used in recent years mainly with reference to the status of women (while, it should be noted, never in connection with men). Are women mistresses of their own lives today? Are they free to decide their destiny? Can they compete on an equal basis with men to become head of state, minister, rector or executive manager, or simply to access study, work or politics?
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