What is women’s empowerment all about, and why is gender equality so hard to achieve? And, most importantly, how can you help – sustainably and responsibly?
Why is Women’s Empowerment So Important, and So Complex?
All over the world, at all levels of society, women bear a disproportionate amount of social and economic hardship. Women may be viewed as less important or less able. Societal roles may leave them little room for choice. Or they may even be considered the physical property of men. All of this and more can lead to physical abuse, a lack of education and healthcare, and ultimately, low self-esteem that makes the cycle difficult to break.
The cycle is also difficult to break when it is so ingrained in a society’s culture. It is not uncommon for women in any given community to resist change. In fact, those who seek change have an ethical and social responsibility to find ways in which women’s rights can be restored without destroying the fabric of a particular culture.
This is what makes working towards women’s empowerment so important, and yet so complex.
How Can You Help?
The UN has identified women’s and girls’ empowerment as an essential sustainable development goal, and there are now many local and global initiatives focused on this issue. Women’s empowerment ultimately makes waves and uplifts children, community health, economics and more. At Kaya, we work with a number of locally-led volunteer projects and internship programs that take a sensitive and practical approach to tackling women’s and girls’ empowerment in a range of ways. You can be part of that process, and here’s how.
Share Your Skills and Provide Support
You can share your skills and time with women and girls, enabling them to find employment, understand their rights, express their feelings, build their confidence, and brainstorm ways in which they can help themselves. Work areas include:
- English speaking, reading and writing skills
- Computer and word processing skills
- Providing knowledge on health and well-being
- Financial skills such as budgeting, saving and pricing goods
- Entrepreneurial support
- Self-esteem and confidence building
- Sharing information about sexual rights and staying safe
- Counseling and social work support for women and girls
What Sets Kaya Apart?
Your experience will be customized to your interests and skills and the specific needs of the women and girls you will be working with. Your project orientation will provide you with the context and challenges of your project. On the ground, as an intern or a volunteer, you can engage in projects in the following areas:
- Run English and Math lessons for complete beginners to more advanced students
- Develop workshops on topics such as childcare, nutrition, maternal health, sexual and reproductive health
- Play sports and games and arrange art and music activities that encourage girls and young women to express themselves
- Run sessions on topics such as life planning and address specific issues (for those with the skills and training to do so)
- Design and run workshops in a range of business and competency-based topics
- Help run workshops on useful crafts such as weaving, knitting, bag-making etc.
How Will Women and Girls Benefit?
Some of Kaya’s initiatives assist women and girls who have escaped domestic abuse or sex trafficking, while others work with women that have formed community groups for empowerment. But all of the women and girls on our initiatives are looking for ways to improve their lives within their communities. This makes it essential for any project to respect and understand the local culture and the vital familial and societal roles these women hold.
What Can You Learn?
You will certainly gain insight into the challenges facing girls and women in different communities and cultures. If you are studying gender equality, you will learn how theory applies in practice, and that not all theories apply to all communities. You will see progress in context. And most of all, you will realize how much more we need to accomplish to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
What Challenges Might You Face?
The reality is that most women and girls bear a lot of responsibility from a very early age, especially in and around the home. Empowering women and girls is not about finding replacements for these activities, but about identifying avenues for growth and opportunity. You may encounter:
- Women and girls that cannot attend regular sessions because they have tasks to take care of at home or children to care for
- Resistance from other members of the community who feel that the social order is being challenged
- Girls as young as eight years old presented as “women” and having the responsibilities of an adult
- Early or late start times that can accommodate for school or work days
- A lack of available resources
- Slow progress coupled with the understanding that even small things can have a large impact, and the realization that progress may have to be slow to be accepted
- The realization that social relationships and social interaction are key to the success of the initiative; sometimes “just” sitting and chatting can be immensely valuable
- Frustration and the need for you to hold judgement; you will most likely have to try and understand cultural norms that you do not practice
So, you will need to be flexible, patient, resilient and open-minded. But know that your support is part of a slow, strong movement to shift the balance for all women.
So, Want to Get Involved?
If you’re passionate about women’s and girls’ empowerment and would like to get involved, we’d love to hear from you! If you do have any particular skills that you feel could be beneficial to our projects, please do let us know so that we can utilize them.
To read about Kaya’s women empower projects that you can get involved with, click the button below.READ MORE