This generation has been raised with the mantra of self-actualization as the essence of liberation. “Live out your dreams! Achieve your full potential.” The implication is always that the fulfillment of our desires and ambitions is the key to happiness. For the women in particular, this means empowerment, dignity and freedom. But then, true freedom for women comes, not only from the fruits of education and career success, but from within, and this brings dignity and genuine empowerment.
Women empowerment means the emancipation of women from the vicious grips of social, economic, political, cast and gender-based discrimination. It means granting women the freedom to make life choices. It does not mean ‘deifying women’ , rather it means replacing patriarchy with parity. People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as education, profession and lifestyle. It includes the action of raising the status of women through education, creating awareness, literacy and training.
Sustainable development accepts environmental protection, social and economic development. But without women’s empowerment, women would not feel equally important as men to participate in sustainable development. To be clear, the full and equal participation of men and women is critical to sustainable development.
Scholars have identified two forms of empowerment, economic empowerment and political empowerment. Economic empowerment increases women’s agency, access to formal government programs, mobility outside the home, economic independence and purchasing power. It also strengthens women’s access to property inheritance and land rights, allowing them a better means of asset accumulation, capital and bargaining power needed to address gender inequalities. Political empowerment supports creating policies that will best support gender equality and agency for women in both public and private spheres. As of 2017, the global average of women holding lower and single parliamentary positions is 23.6 percent.
Over the years, women have become more empowered than before. But the question is, are women really free? Is Freedom the right to exercise choice? The right to access resources and options? It could be argued that women are not entirely free due to the deep-rooted patriarchal mentality in most societies. Women are still victimized, humiliated, tortured and exploited. Even after the milestones of women empowerment, they are still subjected to discrimination in the social, economic and educational field. Some may argue that this is not the case.
But the point is many women around the world are still living in oppression, and as the popular saying goes; it isn’t over until it is over. The UN has come out with a set of goals to allow access to education for all people and a large effort has been made, as a result, to include women in schools to develop their education.
Similarly, a lot has been done on empowering women and girls to achieve gender equality through equal access to socioeconomic opportunities such as in health care, education, employment, etc.
Clearly, there is still a long way to go. Empowering Women begins from the family, the workplace and within the neighbourhood and community. If individuals and societies join hands to provide clean water in rural communities, support women and girls in crisis, mentor girls close to home, invest in hardworking female entrepreneurs, encourage women and use their voices and energy to end preventable death of mothers and children, we will make a big difference in the lives of women around the world – and right in our neighborhood.
At CAPRECON, women empowerment is amongst our core goals and we have empowered many woman across Nigerian. We have done our bits, and we will continue to do more, but it is only when you join hands with us that we can make real change.