Sex Roles

, Volume 81, Issue 7–8, pp 487–504 | Cite as

Understanding Processes of Transformative Change: A Qualitative Inquiry into Empowering Sources and Outcomes Identified by Women in Rural Nicaragua

  • Anjali DuttEmail author
  • Shelly Grabe
Original Article


Despite decades of research on women’s human rights and empowerment across several academic disciplines, inequities between women and men persist at alarming rates across the globe. The current study employs an in-depth exploration of how programs intended for empowering purposes impact individual women’s lives, focusing on the transformation promoted at multiple ecological levels. More specifically, the present study assesses how women involved in a feminist organization in rural Nicaragua were affected by their participation in the organization. Via analysis of qualitative interviews with 14 women, we identify aspects of the organization most associated with actualizing transformative change and assess how involvement in the organization affected women’s sense of self and lived experience. Specifically, we identify and explicate two themes: (a) moving forward, which details aspects of the organization that facilitated positive changes for women, and (b) feminist autoconocimiento, which involved developing an understanding of oneself as capable of offering valuable contributions to their homes and communities. Findings have implications for promoting empowering contexts for women, with a focus on ensuring that desired empowering change is occurring for the women involved.


Women’s rights Empowerment Social change Nicaragua Community 



The present research was made possible by financial assistance from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, a program of The Reed Foundation and a University of California Chancellor’s Dissertation Fellowship. Our sincere gratitude goes to several people who supported this work: Carlos Arenas, Joanna Beltrán Girón, Drs. Regina Langhout, Phil Hammack and Jessica Taft, the research team at CINASE, and the members of Xochilt Acalt.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

No portions of this report have been published elsewhere and this research is not under review at another circulating journal. The research presented here was conducted in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

Supplementary material

11199_2019_1005_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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