Women constitute of half the world’s adult population; based on that premise this essay aims to explain the concept of women empowerment, examining issues related to the lack of empowerment of women as well as how empowerment assists in overall development. This will be done through exploring ways in which women can be empowered, in order for them to gain control over their lives.
Using the conventional definition, of “power over” can be defined as an inclusion of people that are usually excluded from decision-making processes. This includes participation in political structures, formal resolutions, in the economic sphere, on the ability to obtain an income that enables participation in economic decision-making (Vogt ; Murrell, 1990). Individuals are empowered when they are able to maximize the opportunities available to them without constraints.
Empowerment is thus more than participation in decision-making; it includes human potential and the processes that lead people to perceive them as capable and entitled to make decisions. Women empowerment can also be seen as an essential process in accomplishing gender equality, which is understood to mean that the “rights, responsibilities and opportunities of individuals will not depend on whether they are born male or female”(OSAGI, 2001). Moreover having the freedom of being able to express and construct from a women’s ?perspective; being able to influence social choices and decisions affecting the whole society (not just spaces of society accepted as women’s place) ? and most importantly being recognized and respected as equal citizens and human beings with a contribution to make. ?
Problems associated with lack of empowerment
Numerous factors contribute to women’s relative lack of empowerment including controlled mobility, limited work opportunities, and low levels of social, political and economic participation (Hashemi, Schuler, and Riley 1996; Kantor 2003). Lack of empowerment results in negative consequences, such as poor health, disparities in allocation of household resources, medical care and education, and added burden of strenuous physical tasks (Velkokk and Adlakha 1998).
It can therefore be stated that lack of empowerment for women has given rise to many difficulties that women experience, each relating to the other. Firstly, the widespread gender based violence (GBV). Gender based violence is a discriminative form of human right pointed at women simply because she is a woman (Heise, L, Ellsberg, M and Gottmoeller, M.2002). This kind of violence (often accompanied by sexual violence) takes many forms that are evident in rape and sexual assault; forced marriage; contraction of disease; psychological effects etc. and as described by Regan (2016: 7) it is overlooked and increases women’s vulnerability to being infected by HIV. Recent examples of the various kids of violence that women experience includes the tragic death by suicide of the 23 year old Rhodes student, Karabo Maseko that happened. SA People News (2018:5) reported that in a month that women are expected to being celebrated – because her suicide happened after she was raped, and had sunk into depression, Karabos death touched many lives.
Statistics from the South African police Services (SAPS) indicate that 2930 women and 294 girl children have been murdered in South Africa in the past year (Crime Stats SA, 2018).
Additionally, the HIV/AIDS virus has an impact on various aspects of development. This virus is more severe among women than men due to men’s subordinate status in society (Duffy, 2012). The high population rate of adolescent girls and young women infected by HIV globally indicates at the root inequality, scarce access to education and sexual and reproductive services, poverty, violence among women and young girls compared to male counterparts (UNAIDS, 2016). According to new statistics women account for more than half the number of persons living with HIV worldwide( United Nations News Centre (2010, 9 June) contracting it from their husbands or intimate partners. Women remain at risk as male-to-female transmission is far more likely to occur than female-to-male transmission. While society continues to allow and condone men to engage in high risk behavior of having several intimacy partners, women continue to be victimized due to factors that include and are not restricted to: financial dependency on men and being at a disadvantage of negotiating safe sex (the ability to refuse sex, and women’s ‘duty’ to have sex).
Another problem associated to the lack of empowerment for women is illiteracy. A 2013 report by UNESCO found that 31 million girls between the ages of 8-14 years were not in school, and about one out of every four young women in developing countries had never completed their primary school education. This is due to numerous problems associated with poverty, caregiver roles and cultures where young girls are married at a young age so the responsibility of caring for them is handed over to the marital family. Culture plays a role in terms of patriarchal values. Women worldwide are primary providers of domestic work and care for family members due to the many responsibilities they carry out at home such as preparing meals, housework and fetching water and wood.
Among women in a slum population in Mumbai communities where women are a situation of pregnancy where their pregnancy enables them to increase their power, control and decision- making over their own bodies and provides women other benefits such as increased access to the community, greater agency, more financial support, greater levels of respect and more support from husband and his family but this only temporary and their restrained as soon as their pregnancy term ends.
Empowered women and development
In order for development to be consistent and sustainable, three essential components need to occur: economic development, societal inclusion and the conservation of the environment. Once these are achieved, then only will poverty be eliminated through creating improved opportunities for women and reducing inequalities. Encouraging unbiased societal development and inclusion will give rise to benefits of economic empowerment for women.
The empowerment of women will develop economies provided that women’s employment rates rise to being as high as men’s. 15% of major developing economies would rise by 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030 (UN Women, 2014). Substantiation from various countries indicates that an increase in household income controlled by women changes the usage of money in a way that’s beneficial to the children in the household (Brussels, 2015). Families are able to sustainably elevate themselves from poverty and provide significantly to their families and the economy.
How women can be empowered
There are multiple and innovative ways in which women can be empowered. The following are a few innovative ways (in no order of importance) that can be recognized as rebuilding dignity and creating educational and economic opportunities for women.
Firstly, Educating young girls is an effective way of empowering them to becoming informed women who will have the possibilities of succeeding in life due to the access to information that would equip them. Educating young girls is critical as it provides them the opportunity to acquire life skills and health education in order for them to be more mindful of prevention methods. It teaches them the importance of getting tested when they become sexually active, passing on their knowledge to relatives and making informed decisions as future parents.
A second one of empowering women would be to outlaw child marriages. According to statistics by the World Bank, approximately 15 million girls worldwide are married off before the age of 18(UNICEF, March 2018). This activates negative individual growth as well as economic problems for the lives of women. Young girls are disempowered and often abused, there is a high risk of health dangers from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as high risks to contracting HIV/AIDS. Child marriage hinders both the personal development and economic empowerment of women, which is why eradicating this custom, is included as part of the UN’s sustainable development goals to uphold the human rights of women and girls by 2030(United Nations, 2009). Progress in Africa to eradicate child marriages has begun, as seen by the work done by Malawian chief Theresa Kachindamoto (Star Fish foundation 2017). By doing so children are ensured to have a better chance of living a healthy life.
Thirdly, Empowering African women through small business can go a long way in empowering not only women, but all members of the community through providing jobs and opportunities for franchises. Poultry farming is also an example of a sector that’s providing opportunities for empowerment through job creation for women. One of the prime businesses making strides and mentioned on Africa.Com in poultry farming is AKM Glitter Company, formed by businesswoman and head of African Women in Agribusiness chapter in Tanzania, a Graça Machel Trust initiative (Innovative Ways To Empower African Women 2018:27)
Fourthly, in order to ensure that more women and girls get an education, free education should be made available; offering financial incentive to improve educational opportunities and involving women in entrepreneurship through empowerment programs in which the government will give grants to youth to start businesses. These are some examples governments can incorporate to make deliberate efforts to empower women.
Moreover things mentioned in this essay are key – education, entrepreneurship, economic opportunities etc. However the prime obstacle for many girls and young women is self-confidence – the ability to believe in themselves and in the opportunities available to them. Introducing courses and seminars at the beginning of their studies shaped around self-awareness, discovering values and building self-confidence will transform their engagement in order for barriers to be removed – this will result in these women and young girls to be free to study because they finally will believe in themselves and in the opportunities available to them. This will enable them at the end of the day and their previous way of thinking and experiences to become agents of change in their families and communities thus creating a network to encourage mentoring, where younger connect and learn from the established ones.
Equality (or the lack thereof) is a frequent issue when it comes to women and girls, whether it’s inadequate access to schooling for girls in developing countries, or unequal pay for women in the workplace. In a world where 95 percent of countries are run by a man head of state, it’s clear that we as a universal community have a long way to go before women are given a unbiased chance. Above all, gender empowerment should not be mistaken for empowerment of man vis-a-vis woman or the vice versa. I believe that it’s important to not only encourage global women’s economic empowerment, but also that we ensure that the message is imposed in our local communities and society. Together, we can empower women.