Women’s empowerment has ushered a profound emphasis on gender equality. The progress over the years cannot be dismissed: we are seeing women assume leadership positions, women in communities are getting the right education, women’s efforts in the workplace are being regarded as necessary and important. The capacity of women to use their voice and influence on ushering change is escalating.
Empowerment is often defined in general as having the ability to make important decisions in life, and having the ability to put these decisions into effect. Scholars have divided women’s empowerment into two forms: economic empowerment and political empowerment.
Economic empowerment is defined as the capacity of individuals to participate in, support and benefit from growth processes through ways that recognize the value of an individual’s contributions.
Narrowing this down to the economic empowerment of women would mean giving women access to formal government programs, giving them economic independence, greater purchasing power, and more mobility outside the home. This gives women access to assets, properties, resources and opportunities, skills development, and market information.
Why do we need to economically empower women? Because when women work, economies grow. Greater gender equality results in better development outcomes, boosting economic diversification and resilience.
The next question is more pertinent: how can we economically empower women?
Among the many obstacles hindering women to achieve their full potential is lack of support in what they can do. Research shows that broad-based and gender-specific policies actually enable women’s economic empowerment.
For example: having broad-based policies on economic growth will increase the demand for labor availability of better-paying jobs, making greener pastures an equal ground for both men and women. Gender-specific policies specifically on provision of childcare will increase mobility for women and hence productivity.
Women are commonly seen working in the informal sector. Thus, policies that are designed to move workers from the informal sector to the formal sector will empower women to have more control on their income and make the most of their collective bargaining capacity.
Women should not be limited only to the household. A woman can extend her influence beyond her home.
On another note, what is political empowerment of women?
Researchers from the University of Gothenberg defined political empowerment of women as a “process of increasing capacity for women, leading to greater choice, agency, and participation in societal decision-making”. Thus, political empowerment exists when (1) women are able to make meaningful and sound decisions in their everyday lives, (2) women are well-represented in societies and enjoy the freedom of discussion, and (3) women occupy formal political leadership positions signifying equal distribution in the distribution of power.
Thus, how do we politically empower women? This is a rather easy question: we give women a chance to lead.
We begin to highlight the qualities unique in women and the importance of a woman’s voice in decision-making. We emphasize the need to include women in skills building and leadership training. We need to promote participation of women in discussions that affect communities and societies. And we acknowledge that women in position draw more influence from women’s societies hence there is a greater level of political efficacy and competence.
The presence of female political leaders results to women becoming increasingly active in civic discussions, a better voice from women especially regarding crimes and abuse committed against them, and an increased motivation for education and career rather than on household chores.
Economic and political empowerment of women are essential tools for sustainable development. Are we prepared to apply the practice of empowering women in our daily lives, straight from our homes and offices?
Women are best empowered when they are with other women they can relate to. Maya Angelou was never wrong with her statement: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” Women empowerment is about believing in yourself that you can, and acting on that belief – in the process influencing those who are carefully observing your footsteps. Women empowerment is all about finding your voice and knowing how to use it to impact society.
Because it is high time women have to break away from stereotypes and traditional roles. Women should keep on breaking barriers, bridging gaps and performing the roles women are best at. Be it economically or politically, women should take a step. Women should be participative and engaging, as these catapults change, making this world a better place to live in.