We recently commemorated the International Women’s Day, a day filled with all kinds of sentiments regarding the state, place, contribution, and progress of women. Technically, I agree that something rather than nothing is being done to elevate the position and place of women – globally.
While I do appreciate the efforts made thus far, I’d like to point out how many of these efforts are made without an understanding of real-life experiences.
Many activities that paint themselves as women empowerment are projects of the rich deciding for the poor – without their consent. We should note that the key problem with women oppression and disadvantage isn’t economic but inhumanity, a degrading of the woman person to live in dehumanising conditions. This disempowerment can sometimes be advanced by those who claim to be pro-women, when making decisions on behalf of the affected women.
Projects and programmes that claim to exist to empower women are often career or financial stepping stones for well off women.
These become means of income generation through donor funds – paying themselves executive salaries and benefits, conferencing in posh hotels and lodges, hiring elite experts to speak on poor women’s issues.
Spending so much time advocating for socio-cultural issues that are of little concern to most women who feel the daily brunt of poverty, illiteracy, cultural oppression etc.
It is a fact that much has been done at the political front to grant women equal rights.
However, these political opportunities are yet to translate in affecting socio-economic and socio-cultural structures that are negatively affecting the living conditions of women.
Sadly, many women-targeting programmes exist to advance the interest of the wealthy, educated, middle and high income class.
This is noticeable from the arrogant decisions that come from meetings and conferences that take place at the exclusion of the women whose needs are under discussion.
For women empowerment to be real and meaningful, it must be emancipated from the elitist ideological and practical captivity.
And be grounded in meaningful solidarity that is fully human in its perspective and centred on women who are disempowered.
The affected women in many cases are relieved of their responsibilities – making them not to play their proper normative role in their development.
Such solidarity to be truly womanistic needs to prevent the reductionistic practices of women to elite projects.
There is need to use means for women to triumph over inhibiting circumstances, by granting opportunity to think for themselves, in safe and enabling environments.
That women who live under disadvantaged conditions are fully human, who understand their own needs and can change their own circumstances if sufficiently assisted – shouldn’t escape the minds of those who run projects and programmes for women. Failure of such realisation will lead to using ‘women empowerment’ tools and concepts to become means of further disempowerment.
I’m fully convinced that we should not settle with the false notion of ‘doing enough’ – when it comes to empowering women. In fact, we should put out our best resources (human, education, capital etc) to give disadvantaged women the necessary skills to succeed in life.
This should be from the position of woman solidarity rather than the current expert-recipient models that we continue to see. Such structures fail to capture the essence of the human person and reduce women concerns to mere material issues.
While the is need to attend to the material aspects, optimal development should be about value enhancement of the woman person.
While I do appreciate and assume that many who run programmes and projects for women are doing it out of a ‘good-place’, I still think that there is need to discover as new woman-centred scale.
That is, to turn away from practices that use women-platforms for egoistic and self-promotional reasons and work towards meaningful drive of progress.
A moving away from practices which paralyse women empowerment and development efforts.
This is a call to a new moral conscience that women who have been privileged to have advantages in life should use such in service of the many who are trapped in socio-cultural and socio-economic conditions that aren’t of their own making.
In as much as we think of this issue to be economic, it is fundamentally an ethical one.
One that should cause us to question defective, oppressive and bad structures (even our own), and work towards renovating them to meet the requirements of being human and creating enabling well-being.
We need to mobilise our resources freely and efficiently to meet and empower women in ways that are lasting and grand them not only freedom but independence.
There can be no true women empowerment until we realise the full-humanness of the disempowered women. This will lead to doing away with many the brutal and destructive practices which are organised around the progress of the rich and elite women.
This kind of thinking and approach, in my view, would lead to a universal women ascent, in which the most disadvantaged aren’t used as pet projects of the rich but humans with value to contribute to the progress of society.
Disclaimer: These are my own opinions and do not represent the views of my employer or its associate.