Among some of the most viral jargons in the development world, ‘empowerment’ undisputedly remains at the top. There is liberal use and overuse of the word by academics, activists and aid workers, with an equal ease in the context of advancement of women, poverty reduction and community uplift. The extraordinary successful integration of a poorly understood concept or a vaguely defined goal known as empowerment has commanded the attention of many researchers who want to maintain their integrity in a world dominated by the doctrines of the World Bank and allied institutions. The lack of clarity and false consensus are especially prominent in the area of ‘women’s empowerment’ — the magical combination of words that seem to attract all funds, all fame for any development intervention, start-up, movie, commercial or cartoon provided backing is provided by the politically correct sponsors. ‘Empowerment, has come to assimilate power with individual and economic decision-making, de-politicise collective power, and is used to legitimise existing top-down development policies and programs.’ This is the crux of the research paper, ‘Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse’ that appeared in 2009. The author, Professor Anne Calves of Montreal University traced the history of the word in the field of international development, first appearances in feminist theories from the Global South and in radical activism in the 1980s, and its gradual institutionalisation in the policy vocabulary of international development organisations. Many towering names like Dr Naila Kabeer and Dr Amartya Sen too contributed significantly in unpacking the very word. In 1994 Professor Barbara Simon of Columbia University explored the social movements, ideas, and beliefs since 1893, to argue that empowerment is only the latest term for a point of view that has been at the heart of social work since the 1890s. The four elements of empowerment were meant to create synergies, which means access to information, inclusion and participation. Accountability and local organisational capacity are seldom applied in actions impressively fitted cleverly in complex technical lexicon and frameworks. Without oversimplifying the concept, the empowerment irrespective of its branding, political and genetic origins, remains all about equal freedom, dignity, opportunity and ability to sustain in a world of unequal fronts where intellectual power houses create investment in warfare and penury. The illusory strength and status allocated to a woman from the elite class by a political party or a potent public or private organisation are projected misleadingly as the pointers of women’s empowerment or gender mainstreaming Poverty has been given a woman’s face, but empowerment, as applied today is merely a class act and ceremonial in spirit. Exploitation in the guise of empowerment is not articulated vociferously because those who are acclaimed influential and public thought leaders are mostly raised by the same institutions that effectively created the chaos of empowerment. As a student of gender, I have been trying hard (and in vain) to highlight the class differences and role of embedded powers in gender equality and women empowerment be it of political, economic, legal or social in technical terms. The illusory strength and status allocated to a woman from the elite class by a political party or a potent public or private organisation are projected misleadingly as the pointers of women’s empowerment or gender mainstreaming. The nano-exhibit of ‘measured munificence’ by governments and political parties towards women and transpeople from disadvantaged groups, irrespective of their skills, education and talent is nothing but chic politics meant to sustain the status quo. As a young researcher and activist on issues related to HIV and AIDS, I used to question why larger resources are allocated to ‘train female sex workers’ in ‘assertive negotiation’ for safe(r) sex and condom distribution, rather than the prevention of trafficking in women, girls and children and their rescue, reintegration and rehabilitation. In another phase of continued unlearning I witnessed with horror the western academia acknowledging contractors for development projects from poor and developing countries as the ‘change agents’ that has come into sight as another virulent term. The failure to comprehend the customs of the development sector is a dissent (read unpardonable sin in the sector). The nonconformists, odd balls and rebels mostly remain jobless or seldom reach any enviable heights. This should be the fait accompli, of anybody (like myself) who entered into the development practice as an idealist and internalised two lethal books namely; Graham Hancock’s lords of poverty and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Maybe some younger achievers who only follow those who are followed in amazing numbers on Twitter are not aware of these two books that had a positive, yet destructive impact on me and many others like myself. Therefore, I am sharing two selected comments to permanently prevent them from reading these books. Thurston Clarke, an American historian, author and journalist, wrote about the lords of poverty in The New York Times, ‘A deadly serious book about a desperately important subject, a book that succeeds in standing the myth of foreign aid on its head, and demands a serious reply from the development industry.’ According to Professor Macedo of the University of Massachusetts, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a revolutionary text, and people in totalitarian states risk punishment reading it. Contemporary times it seems, are dominated by indefensible pluralistic ignorance and bystander effect. Maybe another Hans Andersen is needed, the Danish author who wrote the emperor’s new clothes (Kejserens nye Klæder) to remind all those who are mastering deception in the name of development that the emperor is naked! The writer is a gender expert, researcher, activist and a free thinker. She can be reached at email@example.com. She tweets @survivorwins Published in Daily Times, April 2nd 2018.