What is women’s empowerment? The word ’empowerment’ has become all the more relevant in the media in recent years.
With the growing popularity of strong women featured in films, women can finally see themselves represented on screen.
Young girls have role models to look up to, media that reflects the strong women they aspire to be.
Books line the walls of stories with strong women, stories of survival and bravery. Prints, stickers, tote bags, hundreds of other products are flying off the shelves with slogans such as ‘Feminist and Proud!’ or ‘Women Supporting Women!’
But where did this sudden trend come from?
Women’s empowerment is not a new trend. While the specific movement we see today might be unique, it all comes from women’s suffrage and the many different waves of feminism.
The fourth wave of feminism, the one we are currently witnessing, has had the most focus on women’s empowerment. Thought to have started around 2012, this wave uses the Internet and social media to further the cause. Movements such as #MeToo, #MyBodyMyChoice and #TimesUp are examples of how digital media has helped make feminism and women’s empowerment a global, accessible cause.
Women can empower themselves through their words online and find a similar community of women with shared life experiences. This is perhaps the most significant change in the history of women’s empowerment, the accessibility of the cause. Unlike ever before, there is no corner of the world empowerment has not or cannot reach. It is everywhere.
The word itself has an extraordinary history. ‘Empowerment‘ has been in circulation for a little over 150 years, deriving from French and Latin words of similar meaning. The term does not mean power over another, but rather, to give power to someone or something. In relation to female empowerment, it is about giving power to women.
Through the movement, several terms have been coined with giving power to women.
The first is economic empowerment.
This does not relate solely to income but rather the entire economic scope of society. For example, making it easier for women to get a job in the market, buy a house, full access to education, and move up the class ladder without having to be married to reap the benefits of these aspects in life. Providing a woman with the power to access these areas of society that were previously cut off gives them their independence and freedom without sacrificing parts of themselves.
The second is political empowerment.
Creating policies that better support women and seeing themselves represented and in policy changing positions is still a fight we struggle with today. Figures from 2017 suggest that the global average of women who hold a policy changing position is 23%. Much lower than their male counterparts.
There have been arguments to make it easier for women to run for office and achieve these positions of power, to better change the society we live in.
2020 saw, perhaps, the biggest achievement to date with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman Vice President in USA history. A victory that has been appreciated worldwide in terms of women’s empowerment. It is essential to celebrate these achievements, but observing them while also demanding for more to be done, can, and should, exist together.
There is nothing inherently wrong with leaning into this trend. It is fun! Who doesn’t want to share cute graphics and messages of inspiration?
For the first time, there is a safe space on the Internet for women to be themselves, talk about issues they face, and be surrounded by like-minded people.
This especially is the case for the #MeToo movement. Women were able to reveal a trauma anonymously or confidentially without having to provide further information or justify themselves. It was revolutionary! Women could finally let out that breath they had been holding for so long.
For most women my age, we did not have this global support network available to us when we were growing up. Being a feminist was not the cool trend that it is now.
But showing the next generation the power and pride that comes from being a woman gives them something to fight for. It makes the entire conversation about empowerment less uncomfortable, not that it should have ever been in the first place. However, there is a responsibility that comes with this social movement. We must practice what we preach, making sure we implement these ideas and positive thoughts in our day to day life.
The first step is listening to women. Really listening.
Giving women space in a room or conversation to voice their opinions and talk about their rights, without the eye rolls or offhand comments made by others.
Women’s history should be taught in schools, but not just women’s suffering. Stories of joy, success and happiness need to be taught. We should not be measured by our grief and sorrow. Better information needs to be made available surrounding our health and medical choices. We should be encouraged to make our own decisions about our body and equipped with the correct information to do so.
Many things could be listed, things we have been taught not to talk about. Once we reclaim these issues with pride, we are already empowering ourselves.
We have come a long way, looking back.
Feminism and women’s empowerment have been an ongoing battle for centuries. It is not going to be over anytime soon. We should celebrate our victories as they come, however small they may seem.
Every day that we wake up and choose to get out of bed is a victory.
There is still plenty of progress to be made. Still, if we are all empowering each other, the fight doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating.
Women are formidable.
We are an unstoppable force on our best and worst days.
Through education, awareness, and empowerment, we can change our entire world.
We owe it to ourselves to see what we can become once we harness that inner power.
Some of us might need a little push to get there, which is exactly what women’s empowerment is.