Women empowerment is a broad term used to describe the process by which women gain more control and power over their lives. This is achieved by removing cultural, social, and legal barriers that prevent them from having equal opportunities with men.
The empowerment of women has a far-reaching impact on their own lives, their families and communities, and society as a whole. Women who are empowered to make choices in all areas of their lives, have greater control over their health, their careers and their quality of life.
Unequal opportunities is reflected in measurable economic consequences. Many research studies show that women are far more likely than men to live below the poverty level, they earn less on average and spend less money on themselves than do men. Most people attribute it to such things such as gender discrimination or lower education levels among women or bias against women when it comes to hiring decisions. But these explanations aren't sufficient; if they were, we should expect to see some narrowing of the gap.
Women's empowerment has three dimensions: economic, political and social.
- Economic empowerment is about ensuring that women have access to resources, assets and training that can help them generate their own income and make their own employment decisions.
- Political empowerment includes the ability to participate in community decision-making and to hold public office.
- Social empowerment refers to the change in attitudes and behaviours that enable women to take charge of their lives, free from violence and discrimination.
The process of empowerment is not one that can be achieved overnight. It involves a number of steps, including:
- Eliminating harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation
- Improving girls' access to education and abolishing laws that prevent women from working outside the home
- Creating equal opportunity in employment through affirmative action programs
- Providing reproductive health services to help women have healthier families
Empowerment is an ongoing process. This involves challenging long-held cultural norms that are harmful to women. Empowerment campaigns also advocate for changes in laws and policies that discriminate against women or are unfair to them.
There are two common arguments for why women need to be empowered. The first is that empowering women will reduce poverty. The second is that by empowering women, we can reduce violence against women and girls.
Today's empowered woman is tomorrow's leader for change.