WHAT IS FEMALE EMPOWERMENT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
I have recently found myself in awe of all these different groups of women connecting in support of women rights. Don’t get me wrong, I was always in favor of women being treated fairly, being honored and respected as much as their male counterparts but this time things felt different. I felt pride, an immense amount of pride whenever I was in the presence of anyone supporting women’s rights. But with my newly found pride came a dark realization.
Women’s rights are human rights, so why are women still fighting for change? and how was I contributing to this fight? was being proud relevant? was being proud sufficient? All these questions came rushing to me and began thinking how I can make small changes within myself to make a big impact on my future and the future of young girls who will eventually be a part of this fight in the future.
It is thought that the women’s movement became popular around 1980s. A few of the issues that the women’s movement was trying to tackle included
Women were not given the choice to vote
Women had to adhere to laws that they had no control over
Most jobs did not hire women and if women were hired they would make only a fraction of what men earned
Women were not allowed to study medicine or law
Women had no way of getting higher education since colleges and universities would not accept women students
Women were made to be totally dependent on men
Fast forward to 2019 where women are still fighting the same fight.
Job discrimination and pay inequality
Less leadership roles in society
The struggle to control reproductive rights
As a young teen growing up in the Caribbean, I was taught that women need to learn how to cook and clean. These skills were highly promoted in my culture as “wife skills”, not necessarily life skills. You will never get a good husband unless you know how to cook and clean. Although a large amount of the women I grew up with carried themselves very independently, the idea of what a “woman’s place” was reiterated consistently and mostly by other women. I have attended church where women were not allowed to wear pants or shorts, other churches where women were not allowed to preach, basically women were not “allowed” to do a lot of things, it just seemed as if there were all these rules that weren’t even made by women that only applied to women.
As a young adult I continued to learn more as I came in contact with women from other cultures that women that had a lot less rights and freedom than I did. I watched the news as women were allowed to drive freely for the first time in June of 2018 in Saudi Arabia, I’ve read spine chilling tales about female genital mutilation in Africa, this procedure was even practiced on girls younger that fifteen years of age and to top this all off, there are places that young girls are still not allowed to attend school.
What people need to know:
“when women succeed, nations are more safe, secure and prosperous” - Barack Obama
How can we start?
Empowering women starts at home and in your community. Let the women in your life know how much you care and how much they are appreciated. Offer a seat to a pregnant, elderly or woman carrying a young child.
Compliment women - create a system of support for women and encourage other people to do the same.
Speak up for women - Whenever there is discrimination or violence against women, men and other women are afraid to speak out, and ironically the more people that witness these injustices means the less likely they are to speak up about it since everyone is waiting for someone else to do something about it.
Protect our young girls - The young ladies in society today are responsible for shaping our future, they will become parents of the new generation. It is our responsibility to protect them, and show them love and forgiveness when necessary. Do not dismiss their concerns, they are dealing with a different version of society than we did. Instead of passing judgement, show them how to move forward in challenging times - Be a role model.
Additionally, you can also empower women by supporting Women owned businesses, Support women leaders, and advocate for equal pay for work of equal value.
~We understand that things are not the way we would like them to be as women, but things can change if we all do our part.
“Issue 7: Women Empowerment.” United Nations Population Fund, www.unfpa.org/resources/issue-7-women-empowerment.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Overview and Exploration of the Dynamics of Change. New York, UNICEF, 2013.
Cochrane, Kira (2013). All the Rebel Women: The Rise of the Fourth Wave of Feminism. London: Guardian
Issue 7: Women Empowerment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.unfpa.org/resources/issue-7-women-empowerment