When I was asked to write about women empowerment, I hesitated… wasn’t sure what should I be writing about.
Should I be talking about my mother, who never went to the market for grocery shopping, yet now she boldly goes out? And dad actually feels happy when she goes out.
Or, should I be talking about that aunty who says, “I treat my daughter and daughter-in-law equally” – By getting them the same gifts, however, expects only the daughter-in-law to help her in the kitchen at the end of the day when both of them are back from work?
Or, my housemaid, who has taken up work just to support her husband in managing household expenses, and the husband thrashes her when he comes back home drunk?
Or, my cook, who busily travels all over the city for her cooking engagements and her husband picks her up at the end of the day from work, so that she can safely return home?
Or, should I be talking about myself, who runs multiple businesses, has a busy schedule and unquestionably supported by husband and family at home?
What is really empowerment? Why do only women need it? What makes it so compelling to talk about women empowerment? Can empowering women alone change many things for women? What empowerment do you think each of these above women feels and enjoys?
Wikipedia says: “The term empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. Empowerment as action refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence and to recognize and use their resources. To do work with power.”
Which simply talks about having been able to think and act independently, experience internal freedom, feel powerful from within, to be responsible, and self-determined. Aren’t these qualities required in every evolved and intelligent human being? Then, why there is a stress on women empowerment alone?
I know the argument would be that women have been suppressed for the 500+ years… I completely agree to that. But, I strongly believe – to empower women truly, we need to empower men and the rest of the society at the same time. There is just no point empowering the women continuously, and not help the rest of the society to be empowered enough to handle an empowered woman!
Reality Check 1: A working woman wanted to sign up for my long-term program, however, her challenge was she gives her full salary to her parents. She needed permission from them to enhance her skills. Apparently, her parents were taking care of her finances so that they can save for her future and for her marriage!
Reality Check 2: Couple of weeks back I met a successful entrepreneur… while having a general discussion about upbringing, profession etc. the conversation effortlessly moved towards marriage. When I asked him what does his wife do, his response didn’t surprise me at all… “Well, she is a medical writer. Though my parents are orthodox, I always wanted a working wife. After all, who will tolerate the tantrums of a homemaker? She also likes to help people, hence, I let her work!”
Reality Check 3: In my last seminar a participant came up and said, my wife doesn’t listen to me! When I asked him what does he mean by that, he said;
Participant: She doesn’t wake up at 6 am when I ask her to.
Me: Why does she need to wake up at 6 am?
Participant: So that she can cook food for me, and get the kids ready for school?
Me: Why does she need to cook food and get the kids ready for school?
Participant: That’s her job!
Me: What makes it her job alone?
Participant: Because I take care of the earning part rest is her job.
Me: Hmmm… Why do you think she is not waking up at 6 am?
Participant: That’s because she doesn’t respect or care at all.
On the face of it, all these women seem empowered, they are educated, nourished and of course, they have freedom of expression. And the rest of the family is not only empowered but feels entitled as well. However, there is still something missing. Something is not on the right track. Do you agree?
Could the parents have done better? Could they have given the woman not only freedom of expression but also the freedom to manage her own money? Could they have given her confidence to take her own decisions without being afraid of the consequences?
Could the husband stop feeling entitled that his wife needs his permission to take decisions of her life? Could he have been empowered in a manner that he is comfortable with whatever his wife chooses to do without feeling the urge to butt his nose into her business?
Could the participant stop expecting that a wife’s job is to be the first person to wake up and do the chores? Could he have been empowered enough to help his wife get out of bed and support her to do the chores?
Empowerment is not just about educating our women, nourish them physically and helping them with a voice for freedom of expression. It is also about giving them the confidence to use their education the way they want to use, without any need for permission from anyone, including the parents. Empowerment is about nourishing their inner self to believe they are worth themselves, they are worthy of taking their own decisions, they don’t need to please anyone, they deserve that extra sleep, they deserve to pamper themselves. Empowerment is about teaching them the skills how to use their freedom of speech at the right time. Empowerment is to let them know that it is ok to be imperfect, flawed and humane. They don’t need to be a superwoman all the time.
Simultaneously, It is important to empower parents, friends, and family members to genuinely treat their women as equal human beings, not just in the talks! Everyone should be empowered to know and believe that, women can take care of themselves, they can decide for themselves, they don’t need permission for doing or not doing something, they may or may not take care of the household, they can live their lives the way they wish to and their gender is no way a hindrance. It is important to empower the society to stop judging and expecting women or men to behave as per the set standards. It is important to empower parents to stop being afraid of her safety, future, career etc. just because she is a girl. It is important to empower the husbands to be comfortable with the household chores when their respective wives are out of station for any reason whatsoever. Where they don’t need to summon another woman to take care of the household while the primary woman is out-of-town. It is an absolute must to empower brothers to think that it is not their entitlement to protect their sisters, to empower them to help create safer outdoors for their own and others’ sisters.
Last but not the least, it is an absolute MUST to teach every single human being on earth to embrace diversity and difference in every sphere of life. They need to be taught to embrace femininity for the right reasons. Only then can we claim to have true women empowerment.