When I sat down to write this piece, I was going to talk about how women are individual agents of change. However, I have decided to write about the different faces of empowerment. empowerment is understood differently by different people. What is your face of empowerment? Scholars have tried to categorise empowerment into three groups self-empowerment through individual action, interpersonal empowerment through mutual action and social empowerment through collective action. They help to explain how empowerment can be achieved but more work needs to be done to contextual all these forms of communication.
I never realise how privileged I was as a woman until I worked on my first podcast titled Shadow Pandemics During Covid-19, it made appreciate my family more and all the experiences I’ve heard in life. Not only did it make me appreciate my experiences but also opened my eyes that empowerment had many faces. Empowerment is not universal, to different people it means something different. Women’s empowerment in the Western countries has been defined by the three phases of the history of the women’s movement. From the universal suffrage, followed by the sexual revolution and the role of women in society. It may have provided the road map to empowerment however, the challenges faced by the women in that era and geographical location are not the same as those of women in different locations and the period we are living. They may be similar but not conclusive of each individual’s challenges, hence empowerment cannot be universal.
For a girl child it can be access to education, being able to attend school and finish their education or to even access information online. In low and middle income countries, women are 8% less likely to own a mobile phone and 20% less like to use the Internet on a mobile phone than men (The Mobile Gender Gap Report, 2020). There is still a wide gender gap to technology. For a woman it might be getting employed in their area of expertise and accessing equal opportunities as men. For other it may mean having religious freedom, choosing their own belief systems. For others it may be staying single, selecting a spouse of their own choosing or not being part of a polygamous marriage. Whereas, for others it might be exercising their civic rights without any discrimination or restrictions just to mention a few.
All this indicates that empowerment cannot be universal, there cannot be one size fits all formular. Different individuals need different empowerment strategies in relation to their needs and challenges. There is need for community leaders and social change agents to approach empowerment initiatives from a human centred perspective, to create programming that is inclusive and comprehensive. Empowerment cannot be achieved without giving a voice to the voiceless, providing the powerless access to decision making platforms and reducing the barriers to entry to those spaces. At the end of the day we only define our own empowerment, what is your face of empowerment?