"A crucial aspect of poverty is poverty of information"

A great deal of the misuse and leakage of development funds intended for aids or anti-poverty programmes is disguised under thick veil of misinformation or simply lack of information. A crucial aspect of poverty therefore is poverty of information. Information is therefore a key necessity for empowerment, because it is only when poor people know what monies are available, how they are being channeled, what programme rules and procedures are, and how decisions are made, that they can begin to hold programme functionaries (public or private) to account. Keeping control over information is a classic tactic of the powerful. It serves to marginalize the powerless to the status of objects or “beneficiaries” rather than the active agents that empowerment entails. Governments can do a great deal in this regard to free up access to information on a variety of fronts ranging from development management to human rights.


The changes in policies (anti-discrimination legislation, changing civil and inheritance codes...), institutions and institutional cultures presume the existence of a genuine democracy. Authoritarianism is no guarantee of mass empowerment or poverty removal; quite the reverse. Authoritarian governments tend to be unaccountable, prone to the enrichment of a few, human rights abuses, and corruption. The few that may not be are the exceptions that prove the rule. Genuine democracy on the other hand creates the spaces that the powerless need to break free of their oppression. Although it can be chaotic and disorderly, it is the only sustainable basis for expanding the human capabilities of the poor, and the only environment that guarantees them the openness to empower themselves.

We recommend the reading of the full original article (reference) for more details:

* Gita, Sen, Empowerment as an approach to poverty, Working paper series, Number 97.07, Decemeber 1997.