Women are oppressed in various ways in society. They are taught and shaped to accept the oppression they face from their childhood itself and so often, women face that oppression throughout their life. Women empowerment can and must be done in the society in order to raise them far above the oppression they are subjected to. Here are ten important ways that we at Positivewala suggest for empowering women, so that they can lead a life with better circumstances and opportunities.
Ensuring high quality education and financial independence
This might seem like a very simple point that is easily achievable, but in reality, this is not as simple as it looks. According to the global statistics of UN Women, only 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. In the case of urban girls, the number is considerably higher to reach 59 percent. Girls are unable to attend and forced to drop out of schools at a young age itself due to the lack of financial stability, misogynistic customs, and traditional gender roles assigned to women, etc. The lack of basic education limits their career opportunities to a great extent, thus making them financially dependent on the closest man in their family. This is a vicious cycle that repeats, again and again, to keep women under men’s control. When a woman is financially struggling, they will have no other option but to obey the person they are depending on.
The studies by the UN using the data from 68 countries proved that women’s education played a key role in the survival of children. Financial independence provides women with the choice and opportunity to live a life by not depending on anyone, thus saving them from the oppression by men and empowering them in the process. Proper education and financial independence would be the most important factor in women empowerment.
Creating a safe work environment for women.
While ensuring proper education for girls remains the primary factor towards achieving a successful career, a number of other factors influence women in doing so. One of the main factors that prevent even educated women from a career is the lack of a safe working environment. According to statistics, 81 percent of women face sexual harassment in their work environment and 72 percent of them do not report it due to the shame associated with it and the fear of losing their job. Many women lose their job for not cooperating with the abuse and are forced to quit because of a hostile work environment. This again forces them back to depending on men for survival and thus pushing them into oppression.
This can only be prevented by implementing strict rules against sexual harassment, a proper complaint system, and thorough monitoring of the workplace. A safer work environment would encourage more women to apply for jobs and thus empowers women through financial independence.
Ensuring equal pay for equal work and experience and addressing gender inequality at work
This is another factor that influences even educated women from a successful career. Most often, women are paid much less than men with the same qualifications and workload in all kinds of careers only due to their gender. Especially in rural areas, women are considered less competent than men and are paid less for the same or even more amount of work than their male counterparts. Women are also not preferred by many people for many jobs due to the same reason and they are options are often limited to jobs that are not preferred by men. Many women are forced to quit their jobs due to insufficient payment and unequal gender roles at work. Women empowerment at work can only be achieved properly by addressing the gender inequality and gender roles that exist there.
Giving decision making and leadership roles to women
This is a very crucial step that has already proven to be very vital in women’s empowerment. Women are largely excluded from positions of power and decision-making roles because of the stereotype that women are not suited for taking important decisions. Although a lot of women have started to handle leadership and decision-making roles, when it comes to the root level, the gender gap between men and women is very large. The impact of women taking on leadership roles on women empowerment has already been proven through many examples, the latest one being Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
When women are placed in positions of power and decision-making roles, they make every decision by considering the empowerment and welfare of women too. Such women not only take decisions that would empower women from all backgrounds, they would also act as an inspiration for oppressed women to fight for their rights and take up positions of power at their own levels.
Investing in women’s entrepreneurship and supporting women-run businesses
This is a very important step in empowering women and tackling the gender inequality that exists in society. Much of the oppression women face arises from the financial instability that they encounter. By investing in entrepreneurial ideas of women and supporting businesses run by them, they have been given a chance for becoming financially independent, which is the key aspect in women empowerment. The governments must start projects to train women in various business skills and they must properly fund projects and businesses that are run by women. This can help in bridging the unequal pay gap between men and women and it would also ensure women’s participation in the economic growth of the country.
However, the support and investment must not be purely financial; women require emotional support much more than men because they have to tackle many problems and difficulties from their family and society to start and successfully run a business. In a typical background, women will have to balance between their work at home and their business, whereas most often men don’t have to do any household work because they are expected to be done by the women.
Supporting pregnant and single-parent women
A major reason why a lot of women are forced to abandon their dreams and career is because of the responsibilities and physical and emotional difficulties that come with pregnancy and motherhood. Women are naturally seen as the primary caretaker of their children and are burdened with the major share of responsibility of looking after the child by the men. The physical discomforts they face often limit them from working at their full potential during and immediately after pregnancy. A lot of workplaces are very intolerant of this and because of that, women are often fired. They are also forced by their family very often to quit their jobs to take care of the newborn.
The case of working women who are single parents is even more difficult. They have to raise their child alone and manage their work skillfully, which can be physically and emotionally extremely challenging. If proper parental leave policies and support for pregnant and single-parent women are not ensured by the companies, they will struggle a lot.
Addressing the issue of unpaid labour
Addressing the issue of unpaid labour is a very important step in women’s empowerment. Women are traditionally expected to do the household chores like cooking, cleaning, washing, taking care of children where men are seen as the earning member of the family. Most often, even when women also act as an earning member by working, they are expected to do all the household work on their own by the society.
However, despite doing more work than men, the work that they do at home is valued less than the paid work done by the man. All the works that are done by women at their homes are not paid and not properly valued although those unpaid works are very crucial in the efficient and successful running of the household and the economy. Properly addressing the value of the job they do and its importance in the functioning of the society and making efforts to change the way the society sees it would contribute much to the process of women empowerment.
Implementing stricter laws against violence against women
In a lot of countries, laws against violence against women are not very strict and many laws actually blames women for the atrocities they face. There are countries in the world that actually punishes the victim of a rape along with the guilty for getting raped. These kinds of laws make it difficult for women to report the abuse they face. Many at times, the punishment for violence against women are not severe enough to make a criminal think twice before they commit a crime against women. The rules and laws have too many loopholes too, which can be exploited by the criminal to get himself acquitted by the judiciary.
All these things encourages criminals to commit more crimes against women and discourages the victims to report the crime and fight it before the law because of the thought of getting blamed for the suffering they face and also because of the stigma that is associated with rape in the society. In order for women to be empowered, they need to feel safe in the environment they are living in and they need to have the courage to fight against anyone who tries to abuse or attack them. For that, the laws that criminalise the victim for being attacked and raped should be scrapped and the existing laws against the violence against women should be made stricter. If needed, new laws should be made for stopping the violence that women face.
Giving proper awareness and sex-education from root level
This perhaps the most important step that as a society, we can do to empower women and tackle the gender discrimination that exists in society. The adults and the growing children must be properly educated and given awareness about the misconceptions that exist about women and about the violence that they encounter. Adults must be taught how gender and gender roles are only social constructs that were constructed overtime to ensure the dominance of men over women. They should unlearn the false conceptions that the patriarchy has taught them and they must be careful not to pass on those to their children. Children must be taught from the kindergarten level itself that gender roles are merely for oppressing women, and they must be taught to do all kinds of work irrespective of their gender.
Also, proper sex education must be implemented in all schools as part of the curriculum. They must learn about gender, sexuality, consent, etc. from a very young age itself. Many often, a lot of crimes are conducted by people who don’t know about consent and its importance. By giving gender awareness and sex education properly, the root cause of gender equality will diminish and thus women empowerment will be done in its true sense.
Knowing/teaching one’s own worth
This one might look as a very philosophical and irrelevant step in women empowerment. But in reality, this one could be the most important and the most liberating step towards women empowerment. Women are taught from a young age itself that they are inferior to men and they are forced to adhere to the gender roles that the society has constructed for keeping them at check. They are shaped and manipulated to believe that the oppression they face is their duties and responsibilities as women. Most women become who the society wants them to be, instead of who they want them to be. In this process, they often fail to realise their self-worth and become toys of patriarchy.
However, proper learning and experiences sometimes makes them realize their own worth and that would mark the beginning of their liberation and their empowerment. Even a well-educated, financially independent woman could be the least empowered person, if she doesn’t realize her worth. Realizing one’s own worth can make all the difference in women empowerment and it would pave the way for everything else naturally.