Pathways to Empowerment: Case Studies of Positive Deviances in Gender Relations in Ethiopia
Development eforts have increased women’s perceived empowerment and freedom, yet have failed to sustainably alter gender norms. There is a lack of research
investigating reasons for this anomaly. This study, departing from the conventional
approach, tries to fll this gap by employing an interpretative phenomenological
approach to assess how women have managed to achieve expanded agency while
living within a constraining normative environment. We argue that women have
the capacity to deviate and the intentions that lead to new behaviors emerge not
only from individuals’ attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control, as suggested by the Theory of Planned Behavior, but also in combination with
demographic and economic factors. Individuals need to make decisions in three areas ―self-conviction (attitude and perceived behavioral control), subjective norms
(within household and community), and structures (state and non-state institutions).
The results shed light on alternative empowerment pathways that could potentially
inform the design of transformational interventions.