Let’s face some hard truths. For generations, we have pigeonholed women into aspects across their behaviours, appearance, and roles in society. Poised demeanour, ideal homemaker, born to be a mother – for the longest time, this is how society has recognized women. These stereotypes are limiting and harmful, and do not reflect the full range of experiences and abilities of women.
With centuries of protests, awareness, and social movements, women are now breaking these shackles and redefining femininity and womanhood to gain equality in society. Time and again, women have challenged status quo and made bold, unconventional choices. From the Indian Women’s Suffrage Movement (1917-1937) led by activists like Sarojini Naidu and Annie Besant to the global #MeToo Movement (2018-present), women have come a long way in challenging patriarchal norms and promoting gender equity.
On a macro scale, women’s empowerment has spiraled into a colossal movement. But the ground reality may be different. And the only way to tackle this is to empower the women in your life. But before that…
A little history of women empowerment
What is women’s empowerment? There are many ways to describe it, but the focal points of the narrative remain the same – raising the status of women through education, awareness, and training. It is a collective effort of ensuring that women have the freedom to define and redefine their own roles and pursue anything that they want in their life.
It is hard to trace back the beginning of women’s empowerment as the baton of power has been in the hands of patriarchy for as long as one can remember. But significant global events such as world wars, poverty, LGBTQ, freedom fights, and health have propelled this phenomenon. The suffrage movement in the 19th century, the fight for reproductive rights in the 1960s, demand for equal pay are some of the women empowerment movements led during different eras.
From that to nations passing laws for menstrual leaves, women’s empowerment has seen many seasons. And to keep up the pace, we, as individuals need to ensure that we empower the women in our lives.
Here are 5 things you can do (or undo) to empower women in your life
1. Awareness and Sensitivity
Empowerment through awareness and promoting sensitivity towards women’s issues, their rights, and law reformations are two important pillars of gender equality. They are both interrelated as awareness can help cultivate greater sensitivity and empathy towards women. As a society we need to constructively look at solutions for issues that limit the empowerment of women. This includes working towards reducing and completely eliminating violence against women, sensitizing and educating people on reducing harassment and discrimination towards women, providing better facilities and infrastructure for women, equal pay for equal work i.e., reducing the gender pay gap.
Grasping a better understanding of these complexities lets society see things from different perspectives. While it is imperative to do right by women, it is equally important to refrain from doing them wrong. Awareness and sensitivity towards women’s issues make us all conscious of our actions. That represents a major step forward for gender equality.
2. Unlearn gender biases
Learning often requires unlearning preconceived notions and biases. Letting go of deep-rooted old ideas that cause gender biases is essential to empower women. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys, all women are maternal, marriage is a woman’s duty – the list of crude stereotypes is incessant.
Gender biases perpetuate harmful stereotypes, inequalities, and discrimination. Some of them are so normalized and engraved in our minds that we do not even recognize them as gender biases. It’s time to discard them.
3. Diversity in workplaces
Diversity in workplaces is an institutional effort that is necessary to bring diversity, equity, and inclusivity to a professional environment. Women should be given equal opportunities as men. Having women in leadership positions can help increase their representation in the workplace, providing role models for other women and inspiring them to pursue leadership roles as well.
Women leaders can help to change the workplace culture by promoting inclusivity, collaboration, and open communication, creating a more positive and supportive work environment for everyone. Establishing PoSH policies, setting up women-led committees, and rewarding and recognizing their work can not only stimulate workplace diversity but also help empower women from all stages of life.
4. Supporting women-run businesses
Economic empowerment for women is often swept under the rug. Women have long been undervalued and underrepresented in the economic sphere, and it is time for this to change through greater recognition of their worth and contribution. By granting women more economic authority, we can create a more just and equitable society that benefits everyone, regardless of gender.
Women are at the helm of many businesses. Homemakers have turned into entrepreneurs. They are going above and beyond to build a life for themselves. All you have to do is support these women-led businesses in any way possible.
5. Communicate and educate
Start conversations around women’s issues, judiciary gaps, news, and gender equality. Awkward uncomfortable conversations bring big changes. While self-awareness is an important first step, it is equally important to share the knowledge gained with others, by educating those around us, and starting conversations that promote understanding of women’s empowerment in our households and communities.
Silence and inaction can perpetuate the systems of oppression that keep women from achieving true equality and empowerment. Raise your voice and create a collective momentum for change and work towards a more just and equitable world.
By empowering women, you can build a rich society. Pick up any chapter from history and you will know that it is right! The evolving society will bring new challenges and achievements across all gender spectrums. Women are resilient and always navigate challenges with grace, dignity, and their head high. All you have to do is…have their back!
Apart from having women leaders within the organization talk about breaking the glass ceiling; get experts to come and speak to and motivate women on challenges and issues for women; how to deal with them. Workshops focused on women empowerment and how to build women managers and leaders can also be organized.