Decoding Women Empowerment

Decoding women empowerment is breaking down the ideology behind women empowerment to better understand it. And improve initiatives directed towards inclusion and action. I’ve heard and even thought about the idea of women empowerment being a cliché.  For part 1 of decoding women empowerment we will be defining, sourcing and generally discussing women empowerment from the perspective of several women.

The identity, purpose and reflection of a woman is her own authentic image. A women can never be subjected to a specific definition or character. Empowerment has different connotations to everyone. Your reality defines what you are empowering or empowered by. As a black woman, empowerment is not an easy task.

I face repeated insults and humiliations resulting from discrimination and outright racism. As an immigrant I don’t have opportunities or benefits that my fellow females have. I have to work twice as hard for my education, job(with a lower pay), emotional & mental health. Living within the black community means battling with people’s perception of mental wellness and health choices. My definition of empowerment is based on my reality. Empowerment is breaking down society, political, and unjust narratives in order to create an environment where women and particularly black women like me are treated fairly. An environment where we are given the same opportunities and invest in better emotional and mental health care.

The ideology of empowerment is to lift up those who are oppressed and fight for the lives of all who are living or unfairly mistreated. Yet for another woman of a different race, ethnicity or background, empowerment can be support, emotional and economic freedom. Empowerment to you, could be claiming something back or giving power to what you already have. Women empowerment should be a united front on recognizing, challenging and solving the obstacle faced by all women. One woman at a time. Women empowerment is not a walk in the park. It may often be a struggle, where you don’t benefit from it directly. But women empowerment is an imperative action.

Women empowerment within our own cultures, race and communities is important because we too have inner battles & standards to uproot. But recognizing the opportunity to help others is important as well. The world may be full of racism, sexism and all the -isms but you- individually and collectively, have a decision to make everyday. You can choose the see the challenges other women face and join the revolution. You can ignore it or be fake. Ignoring it won’t help because change is coming. When winter comes it doesn’t ask the sun for permission, it just comes. The fake will always be revealed. Women empowerment should never be a cliché. If you don’t see an issue in the world or in your community then look again. Talk to someone who doesn’t look like you. Share some insight into your life and vice versa. Women in a truly humble, open and transparent conversation is the beginning of women empowerment.

The cliché feeling may be from an exhausted mind. This fight is long and difficult but they are little victories. That is why women empowerment is imperative. To be a reminder to those who lose hope, we motivate them and others who never believed in the first place. Perhaps we are becoming numb to the words and losing sight of the importance of women empowerment.
I met this 13 year old girl when we were in Lesotho. She lived on a hill. Her family did not particularly bother about her and at some point she would be married off. She stopped going to school because her Uncle said it didn’t matter anyway. She was smart. She cooked, cleaned & looked after the house. She spoke about the future as those it were on the palm of her hands. All the dreams and plans she wanted to execute. She told me the reason she spoke this way is because it was possible. It is possible. Not because she can literally go for it. “But, seeing as other girls, my age & your age, are going for their dreams then it will always be possible. That is why I tell others to imagine more.” She was one of the first empowered woman, I’d ever met.

Women empowerment should be our responsibility to increase the voices of diversity in all aspects of our lives. I asked several women, from across the world, to define women empowerment according to their own understanding and community. In a similar manner ask yourself, What is Women Empowerment? Do I believe in it?

“To me being empowered means being given the knowledge, tools, and/or strength to pursue something you once thought was impossible or personally unattainable.” – Carine

“okay so. what women  empowerment is? by the world’s  definition: the enabling of women to accomplish things they could not do before by encouraging the realization and persuasion that the mantle of “woman” carries power. what I think it should be? a woman realizing through the power of the Holy Spirit the purity and goodness and beauty of her identity woman and being strengthened by God to glorify Him in her specific + intentional calling as such.”-Rebekah

“Women empowerment is the uplifting of women, being made aware-without force- to the fact that women can do anything they set their mind to, just like men, and then giving them the opportunities that would allow them to showcase their abilities.” –Shekinah

“Women empowerment to me is having the power to make decisions without asking for confirmation and being independent. An empowered women is enlightened about who she is and what she deserves and works hard to achieve all her goals and dreams with the help of other women. It is having strength, believing oneself and never forgetting how far she has come to let anyone’s opinion change or sway her…” -Zanele

“Women empowerment for me is when a woman is self-sufficient. It’s when a woman can go for her dreams,  achieve them and help others to become empowered” –Yolanda

“The process of women becoming more confident, especially in their own life and the rights they are given. Sometimes when I hear women empowerment I think about power, authority and rights being given to an individual. But if I were to look at leadership empowerment I think about how it looks more like someone having a stronger sense of trust from others and themselves to carryout a self-sufficient/positive life through the gaining of new wisdom, knowledge, resources opportunities and more.” -Ari 

“I think women empowerment is generally all about women doing what is considered to be out of the norm from society’s point of view.” –Carmel

Photographer Sarah Caton

“Women Empowerment is giving women confidence and strength to be a higher version of themselves. Not only does this allow women to grow spiritually, it creates a domino effect and strengthens our communities. Women empowerment is also the ability to rise from areas of life that holds restriction such as having the power to choose and make decisions for themselves. It’s a way for women to overcome stigmas, restrictions, and live with the ability to live life on their own terms.”-Priyanka

Photographer A’lisa Smith

“The best way that I could describe women empowerment is that it is a support system. A collective of women and men who uplift, give voice too and strength one another within a system that was designed for the opposite.”-Catriece

“I would describe women empowerment as a woman’s way of showing the world, and everyone around her that she is strong, has future dreams, passions, and that she will work towards her goal until those things are met. When I say goals it could literally be anything, big or small.” -Sarah

“I would say Women empowerment is getting women to be aware of the control they have on their lives, and that no one can ever tell them who they are but themselves.” –Gentille

“Women encouraging each other and supporting each other to become the BEST versions of themselves.” -Stephanie

“Empowerment is a way of providing women with the same tools and opportunities as men in order to be proactive in the society.
Everywhere in the world, women were neglected. While in this same case there was pressure for women to stay home where they were more defined by house chores & their husbands. In time women with awareness, became so strong in their village, province, town, country and in the world. The place of women in the society was not easily accepted by men but God allowed it and they promulgated then. The objective of empowerment is to put all women in the same category as men by giving them all the same works. Women are now able to speak, to write books, to lead people, and to defend their rights.”-

“My name is Allison George, I have a degree in Office Management and Technology and for the past 4 years I have been teaching children from 10 – 13 years of age that they have the power to make decisions for themselves.  This together with my studies has given me the confidence to speak up and make decisions for myself and my family and stand by it no matter what the world might say. I am a product of stupid decisions… that’s what my family told me when I made some decisions for my family and look where I am today…Happy, Helping and Making My Mark! In a nutshell  to me, women empowerment means: sharpen your saw ladies, mentor ladies/girls (Give Back), take a step higher and repeat…” -Allison

Women Empowerment is not only limited to it’s outstanding definition and Instagram images. The important aspect is whether you believe in women empowerment. And on top of that, are you seeing an active improvement in the women empowerment movement? 

Ari, do you believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time, looking at our generation?
“The millennial generation based on consumer psychographics value diversity, self expression and anything that breaks down the restrictions to a purposeful and free (what ever that looks like for an individual to feel fully confident to be who they are) life. I think more than anything this generation is creating a lot of awareness on certain issues. Just looking for example at the MeToo movement, that movement is just one of hundreds that has empowered a lot of women to come out of hiding, shame and hurt. However, I wouldn’t say it’s just woman empowerment that’s happening at this moment. I think that’s just a small piece to what is happening. Media and news does a good job of creating gatekeepers, who pick and choose what is being exposed to society. This creates false or a non-representative truth about what’s happening as a whole and can easily manipulate, persuade and overall just hurt people’s perspectives. Not to make women empowerment seem unimportant at all, I think it’s very important, but I think there’s an even deeper root to a people desiring to be seen, known, heard, accepted and loved. I feel like the U.S. has become a sensitive people. They are looking for the more of what life has to offer, and honestly the only solution to that is Jesus. Living a life knowing your identity in Christ is the most empowering thing there is. We are called to live a life of righteousness, peace, joy and love. There’s nothing more or less we have to do. Jesus simply purchased it with his blood. The world says “work hard, strive and climb this latter of life in order to be successful”, but at the end of the day what does that even mean? God simply says, “let me love you and give you the things your heart desires, for the things of earth will perish, but for you I have an eternal life where you’re true treasure is found.”

Priyanka, do you believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time, looking at our generation?
“I do believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time for multiple reasons. Politically yes, especially with the recent election it was so empowering to see the number of women be elected. But I also believe in women empowerment as an Indian. Although I was born and raised in California, I’ve learned and seen what it’s like to live in India from my multiple trips there. To see women being told they’re meant to be housewives, to provide an heir to the family as their only duties reminds me how women empowerment is a much needed belief. The fact that still today, Indian women are expected to adjust to every man’s need fuels my belief in the necessity of women empowerment.”

Gentille,do you believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time, looking at our generation?
“I believe that women empowerment is a great movement, but I believe that no one can empower anyone but yourself. No matter how many times a women tells me I’m great I can do all these things etc, I truly feel like empowerment is honestly achieved by your own belief in yourself. I also believe that women empowerment in our generation is lowkey being abused as a market to make more money when it started out so well.”

Carine, do you believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time, looking at our generation?
“Definitely!!! As always representation matters and now more than ever women are exposed to individuals just like them achieving incredible things. Women everywhere are using their platform to show others that they are beautiful, powerful, intelligent, limitless, capable, worthy of love-safety-comfort, etc… Everyday I see women doing things that inspire me. Women are more educated now than every, have powerful positions, are running billion dollar industries. I’m so happy because my children will be able to grow up knowing that they can truly pursue anything they want. And if they feel that they are being blocked from certain avenues they will know that someone will fight for them. There’s definitely room for improvement because women are also still being put down and made to feel little using these same tool but we are definitely having hard conversations across all platforms about what it means to be a woman. What it means to be beautiful. What it means to be confident…”

Catriece, do you believe in Women empowerment at this moment in time, looking at our generation?
“Yes, for the time being. It’s necessary to show women/empower women to reach their full potential because we live in a world where we’ve been overlooked. But there should be a point where we move from having to empower women to do, to supporting women who already know that they can do!

Women empowerment within our own cultures, race and communities is important because we too have inner battles & standards to uproot. More about this in Decoding Women Empowerment part 2.

-Written by Cecilia W’emedi

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