This article explores the limitations of empowerment in the context of unremitting, dangerous, and extreme power inequalities. The context explored here is one experienced, over the past 30 years, by the members and supporters of an underground, Afghan women’s humanitarian and political organization. Although empowerment is seen as a guiding principle for community psychology, this paper argues that in settings where it is nearly impossible for a sub-community to gain resources, access, mastery and power over themselves and others, empowerment may be an unrealistic and even disillusioning goal. As an alternative, the concept of resilience is proposed, operationalized as a culturally-grounded, multi-level process leading to superior processes and outcomes in the face of unremitting odds. Multilevel resilience attends to the successes that occur despite extreme inequality. With its focus on resistance, perseverance, indigenous goals and approaches, and nested contexts of risk and protective factors, the concept of resilience also fits community psychology values and principles.
Keywords: Resilience, empowerment, women’s rights, power inequalities, risk factors, protective factor