Women Can Empower Themselves // Annahita Mahdavi
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“Let’s Empower Women”, that is the slogan we hear all the time from many women organizations. Although it is a great concept and one that must be one of the main goals in this endless fight of women and equality, it is also a peculiar one. It almost is like the concept of the “magic wand” and how it is in the hands of the beholder and with one spin can magically solve the problem. It comes across as an outer element not an inner element.
This idea of liberating and empowering women has generated from the western societies. As we have witnessed in the past two decades, the west has invaded many countries with the claim of liberating and freeing the people of those nations in the name of “war”, and we are all witnessing the disastrous results of those invasions. Systems cannot change by only an outside force or only an inside force. Systems change by the force of a mixture of both outer and inner elements.
I have worked with groups of women from a diverse background in the past few years, especially women from refugees and immigrant population. The groups were all focused on the concept of “empowerment”, but empowerment was defined as the already existing skills and abilities within those women, but also how the social learnings have covered them and given a false identity to the women. The work was aimed towards gaining access to those internal abilities and skills, and at the same time gaining insight of what are the forces to make women lose those internal abilities and strengthens. And last but not the least step was how to gain it all back. This is one of the very lost concepts in the issue of empowering women. Often, our own internal interpretations of who we are is the main force of how we are in our lives. And often those internal interruptions have been influenced by our social learnings and the impact of our environmental learnings. For those very reasons, the interpretations are not the real identity and thus taking us to a weakening path. This becomes the core element of many dysfunctionalities in our lives, e.g. staying in unhealthy relationships, having co-dependencies, staying in unhealthy work environments and not perusing our own dreams and desires, and of course most of all not moving towards a social and economic equality and justice. It is a noble effort to be the voice of unheard and silenced, but it is also a vital effort to make those voices to make their own noise and send their own messages. To become an empower women, first step is to become internally empowered. This must be included in all teachings and policies of women organizations.
The external empowerment, then; can come to the picture. The external empowerment must include domestic and global support, cause advocacy to change policies toward equality, social justice and equality, providing opportunities for involvement in the movement and organizations. It is only when we adhere the concept of internal empowerment that we can be successful with our efforts in our organizations towards the empowerment of women as a whole.
A gardener plants the seed of the tree, waters and cares for the tree. The environment, Sun and Air, do their job too, but it is from within that the seed starts spreading and growing, by its own given abilities. The seed has everything it needs to grow within itself.
Written by: Annahita Mahdavi