The purpose of this article is to outline what it means for women to be empowered, why it is necessary for women to be empowered, challenges facing women, and strides that are being made by women in order to empower other women.
Women empowerment is the nurturing and protection of women’s sense of identity, power, recognition, and conviction through fostering the capability to acquire their talents and potentials through concrete education and knowledge.
Women empowerment is by no means how hot or beautiful a woman looks, how many followers a woman has on Twitter or how many friends a woman has on Facebook.
Empowerment must be derived from knowledge or education because with knowledge, women can critically recognize the means of acquiring a healthy sense of identity and power based on what their concrete knowledge tells them is prudent with good judgement.
With education, women can understand and recognize happiness as something that is not transitory, but life-long. Women empowerment at its most ideal should imply life-long and healthy power for women. Women should be empowered politically, economically, and socially.
Economic empowerment can provide the ability for women to be empowered politically. Political empowerment in turn allows women to take control of the policies that will benefit their economic standing. Social empowerment reinforces the ability to participate economically and politically, which in turn reinforces women’s standing in society.
In addition, women empowerment is about extending a hand to a fellow woman who is at the bottom of the ladder in order to elevate her to the next level. It is about amicable and positive collaboration among fellow women with the ultimate goal of accomplishing productive results. It is about effecting positive social change within our families, neighbors, communities, society and the world.
Today, women have tangible challenges to overcome in order to attain empowerment. These challenges include but are not limited to:
-Domestic violence against women
35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and or sexual violence by a non-intimate partner at some point in their lives; 70 percent have experienced physical and or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. In 2012, it is estimated that of the women who were victims of homicide globally, almost half of them were killed by intimate partners or family members. Globally, more than 700 million women alive today were married below the age of 18 years.
Female genital mutilation (FGM)
According to the United Nations International (2016) at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries. This practice is a source of physical trauma, emotional trauma, hemorrhaging leading to severe anemia, infections and premature loss of lives. This practice has not been associated with evidence-based scientific benefits for women.
Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims globally.
-Cyber bulling or harassment
1 in 10 women in Europe report cyber-harassment since the age of 15, this include emails, texting, sexting, and other forms of social network.
-Unequal pay for equal work
In 2014, women working full time in the United States were typically paid 79 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 21 percent. This gap is even wider for women of color such as African American Women, Hispanic Women, American Indian Women, and native Hawaiian Women.
-Women in government
Even when elected, women tend to have lesser cabinet ministries or similar positions. Women rarely hold executive decision-making positions in more powerful domains such as the military and finance and in more autocratic nations women are less likely to have their interest represented in politics.
-Women as domestic slaves
According to the Walk Free Global Index of Slavery (2013), approximately three quarters of a million people were enslaved in the Middle East and North Africa of which 70-80 percent were women. This practice generates an estimated 34 billion to 150 billion dollars revenue in profit. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Iran have been ranked the worst offenders for this practice, taking women from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea, and Sub-Saharan Africa as domestic slaves. This practice ensures that participants fulfilled the three C’s which include: cleaning, cooking, and confinement. These three C’s usually resulted in working long hours, food deprivation, sleeping on floors, lack of privacy, lack of the ability to communicate with people outside of the household, withholding of wages, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse.
Is a phenomenon where a person (most often a woman) is subject to violence or death by her collective family or community in order to restore honor presumed to have been lost through her behaviors. These behaviors could be dressing appropriately, dating outside of race, running away with a man, or unpredictable loss of virginity. There are 5000 honor killing annually (Honored Based Violence Awareness Network, 2015).
The bright side is, women have made and continue to make significant strides to bring about economic, political, and social change in their lives. With this in mind, I must highlight the contributions of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who are women suffragettes that pioneered the right for women to vote and to hold elective offices in the United States. In addition, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf deserves recognition as she is the first elected head of state in Africa and is listed as the 70th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Moreover, we must extend accolades to Isabel Dos Santos of Angola, Oprah Winfrey of United States, and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria who have attained economic power bringing about sustenance in society and the right to girls’ education.
Other women who have made significant strides to empower others include but are not limited to: Mother Teresa of India, Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Burma, the late Lady Diana of England, the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Michelle Obama of the United States, Florence Nightingale of Italy, Angela Merkel of Germany, Margaret Thatcher of England, Queen Elizabeth II of England, Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States, Rosa Parks of United States, Indira Gandhi of India, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy of Pakiskan.
As women, we can only change the current state of our status in society if we continue to carry the torch of women who have made a difference through working collaboratively, respecting each other’s differences, and acquiring concrete education and knowledge. This is the 21st century, this is our time to shine and as such, we cannot afford to relent.
This article is dedicated to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy- a Pakistani journalist, filmmaker, and activist who has won an Academy Award for her documentary “A Girl in the River: The price of Forgiveness” which looked at honor killings in Pakistan resulting to legislative changes related to honor killings in Pakistan.