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My Two Cents: Why Empowerment Matters

My Two Cents: Why Empowerment Matters

Editor’s post, by Sharon Reed

Empowerment:  A catalyst for growth and essential for leadership, it is the means by which we are able to give life to our own voice and others, critical for advancing our own human rights and potential. At the heart of the democratic process, empowerment is the enabling vehicle of personal, social, political and economic growth.

Yet every year, millions of women and girls around the world are denied access to empowering resources, whether healthcare, education, capital or opportunity — all means that enable women to adequately care for, educate and advance themselves, their families, and their communities. Every year, millions of women are denied the privilege to exercise their own voice and leadership, whether through the political process or more informal means. Significantly, every year, millions of women and girls are trafficked, raped, exploited and abused, whether sexually, physically and/or emotionally — robbing them of their innocence, self worth and dignity, while psychologically crippling their ability to stand up for themselves and rise up against their oppressors.

“Empowerment matters, because when we feel powerless over ourselves and our circumstances, we become victims of life itself.”

Recently I engaged in a lively debate with my 16 year old son about global power and politics, systems of government, and whether true equality can (or should) exist. As a human species, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest manifests itself in every corner of our society, offering ample evidence and reenforcing beliefs that true equality is not only impossible, but perhaps even undesirable — a controversial position upheld by a Zimbabwean friend who once told me he opposed universal access to education, arguing that educating a man (or woman) who is subsequently denied access to opportunity only leads to civil unrest and personal disillusionment.

But these polarized positions and political debates often miss the larger point when it comes to the gender conversation. Empowerment is not about equal rights for one at the expense or displacement of another. More fundamentally, it is about human rights for all. Additionally, resources, policy and programs in support of women and girls’ empowerment are less about creating more pressure and expectations for women and girls, than they are about giving them freedom of choice to choose, speak, act and achieve for themselves as much as for others.

“Empowerment matters, because when we can stand on our own two feet, we’re able to contribute to the social, political and economic development of our community, breaking the chains of dependency that often lead to impoverishment.”

With 2015 marking the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Platform for Action at the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, I’m reminded not only of how far we have come in advancing opportunities and rights for women and girls around the world, but how much further we still have to go. We each have a role, a voice, a gift and a story. We each have talents to share, trails to blaze, and the responsibility to pave a path forward for those who follow behind.

Won’t you join us in lending your own voice and leadership in support of women and girls world wide?

Sharon and Allison 2014_1

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