This article seeks to clarify some misconceptions around the term ‘women empowerment’, especially because women empowerment does not only involve giving freedom to girls and women, but also involves working with boys and men to defeat poverty. Empowerment means being strong and enabled as well as having improved income, independent decision making and a sense of freedom. Since the approach to women empowerment varies with respect to cultural norms, this article argues that the ill formed perceptions and misconceptions that simply pitch girls and women against boys and men need to be reconstructed urgently.
So much has been said about women empowerment in the global context. In the context of Cameroon, quite strangely, many people, including women hardly understand the term. For example, to some women, empowerment means women are already equal to men in that they have brought about economic change for themselves, which is increasingly viewed as the most important contributing factor to achieving equality between women and men.
In a simplistic way, some women consider equality with men as a freedom and right to eat, drink and dress as they like irrespective of their cultural background or marital status. In this regard, a clergyman once told his congregation that “to preach women empowerment is to bring feminism in the church”. There is another school of thought that believes that women should dominate men and consequently men should take up domestic chores such as cooking, laundry and child care. The above and other misconceptions about the essence of gender equality by many women served as a serious hindrance to the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3. Among the women folk, the misconceptions have made many women to become lazy, undisciplined, and generally lawless. This has also distanced men from supporting the cause of achieving gender equity and improving the conditions of women.
Women’s empowerment should most appropriately be conceived as a multi-dimensional social process that helps women to gain control over their own lives, communities and their society, by acting on issues defined as important. Empowerment occurs within sociological, psychological, economic and political spheres at various levels, with a concentration on education and employment which are an essential element to sustainable development. Women empowerment should create a social environment in which women can take decisions and make choices either individually or collectively for social transformation and strengthen innate ability by way of acquiring knowledge, power and experience. Women empowerment is also the expansion in women’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context that promotes the exercise of free choice. Once the woman has obtained their basic and strategic need, they are expected to also assist other weak and vulnerable persons. Empowerment also includes actively thwarting attempts to deny them those opportunities thereby encouraging and developing the skills for self-sufficiency.
Men should look at ‘women’s empowerment’ as a useful move for sustainable development and talking about it freely makes men and women to be more sensitive of their mutual needs. The process of empowerment recognizes and acknowledges gender differences, and the negation of femininity or masculinity; it serves a good starting point to redressing inequality and sundry discriminatory acts in the society. Accordingly, women should see their empowerment as going far beyond the normal celebrations of the International Women’s Day. It should include discussions of their rights and more seriously how the general improvement of their livelihood can contribute positively to development. Woman should rise above the empty noise of marginalization to self-questioning on who they are and what they can contribute to development.
Among other things, women can be empowered through education. Women who lacked the opportunity to have quality early education can enroll into adult learning programs. Others without paid employment can empower themselves financially by starting new businesses. Empowerment has to do also with the knowledge of human rights and how to participate in social activities and local governance effectively.
PAID-WA Buea is seriously involved in fostering women’s empowerment by training its students and participants on issues related to women’s empowerment, as mainstreamed in the common core course titled, “Gender and Development (GAD)”. Apart from that, women who have empowered themselves in various fields and skills in PAID-WA have been placed in key positions in the institute.
PAID-WA Women on the move. 2016 International Women’s Day Celebrations: We make sure that women are part of decision making and their ideas and solutions are part of the discussion