What is Female Empowerment? And Why is it Important?
Female Empowerment is yet another term that is thrown around often nowadays - in fact, the topic is quite trendy. What does this term actually mean....and why does it matter? This blog post will focus on answering these 2 questions.
First, Let's Define it.
Various definitions of #femaleempowerment have been constructed and it may mean something different to different women. According to the International Center for Research on Women, a commonly agreed-upon definition of empowerment is the ability to make strategic choices where that ability did not previously exist. UN Foundation’s Alaka Basu continues with this definition by stating that it is a process that occurs when an expanded set of choices are made available. In other words, female empowerment occurs when a larger amount of options can be chosen from that did not previously exist for a woman. Not only are additional resources made available to the female, but a sense of agency occurs which creates an ability for the woman to act according to her own interest.
This sounds very academic. So, let's simplify it.
Empowerment is the reversal of 'I can't' to 'I can'.
Imagine a girl who lives in a society which doesn't financially support educational opportunities for girls past primary school. She can't go to secondary school because her parents cannot afford the school fees. An NGO is established in her region with the goal of empowering girls through education. They pay the school fees which allows the girls in the region to attend secondary school. Now, she can. Now, she has a sense of empowerment and agency which was not previously there.
Digging a bit deeper, the United Nations states that women's empowerment is comprised of the following five components:
Imagine a world where girls and women are given opportunities to strengthen all of the above. Can you see the importance of this?
Yes, it is Important.
As mentioned above, much attention has been given to female empowerment – but why has it been deemed so important? The benefits can be reaped at both an individual level and a macro-level. This individual level of #empowerment will collectively empower women as a whole - which can highly contribute to the overall development of a state. This, in turn, is believed to benefit the global society as a whole.
This post will dive a bit deeper into the importance of 2 of the different dimensions of empowering girls and women: economic and educational empowerment. Both are considered key to empowering women.
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) defines women’s economic empowerment when the woman “has both the ability to succeed and advance economically and the power to make and act on economic decision.” For the former, it is necessary that the woman has the skills and resources to compete in markets, as well as have fair and equal access to economic institutions. For the latter, the woman must have the ability to make and act on decisions to control resources and profits – in other words, to be able to benefit from the economic activities.
How can a woman be empowered if she cannot have control of what she earned?
Not only does empowering women economically assist in women achieving their potential and advancing their rights, but it assists with poverty reduction goals, increases economic efficiency, and leads to greater contribution in investing in children’s future (and thus provides a route to sustainable development) (ICRW).
Educational empowerment is important as well, as it is "one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process." Educational empowerment generally encompasses goals that involve educating females past primary education, as the benefits are much greater.
Not only does education help equip girls and women with the necessary knowledge and tools to make informed decisions and increase their bargaining power throughout their daily
life, but a mother’s education is more likely to help influence her children in regard to
securing resources than the father’s. When the level of a woman’s education increases, health outcomes are also likely to improve for herself and their children. Further, as educated women are more apt to participate in the labor force and earn higher incomes, education serves as a predictor of better employment opportunities.
Giving a girl the tools of educational empowerment at a young age has a positive continuous impact - not only on the girl herself, but on the future generations to come. If that isn't important - what is?
I think it is indisputable (or at least it should be!) that empowering women should be a goal of every individual, family, company, school, society, and nation. When a girl or a woman increases her level of empowerment, this benefits us all. This is why FairFem focuses so heavily on choosing brands which empower women. Supporting brands which support women contributes to this full circle of empowerment.
Take a moment to reflect on your daily life and ask yourself how you can assist in empowering girls and women. This can be taken in so many different directions: supporting female-owned businesses, donating to organizations who support the advancement of females, finding a girl to mentor, teaching your children the importance of equality, and so on. These small steps from your end can make a massive impact on an individual girl's end - which will benefit our society as a whole.