Participatory action research as the approach for women’s empowerment

Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, Karachi; Community Health Sciences


Women’s empowerment is recognized as an imperative for achieving women’s rights, health and development. The achievement of women’s empowerment as an end goal or even initiation of the process necessitates usage of approaches that promote participation and incite action. The Community Health Sciences Department (CHS) of Aga Khan University Karachi that is part of a five-component study (including four Asian countries) titled ‘Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts’ (WEMC), used the participatory action research approach for women’s empowerment. Work with communities entailed reflection, analysis and action not only to create knowledge but for education, development of consciousness and mobilization for action. We adapted the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools to explore women’s perceptions and reflections on their existent situation and aspired needs with respect to empowerment, community’s overall health, mental health, reproductive health, daily work load, access to resources, participation in decision-making and violence against women. Our experience emerged as a five-step model of participatory action research for women’s empowerment that included steps of field inquiry, analysis for action, advocacy training, policy dialogue and tracking action for change. Reflections on this model can serve as a learning instrument for those engaged with community based work and social transformation.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Action Research