Posted on December 13, 2019
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“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”
– Kofi Anan (former UN Secretary General)
Empower is a word that is used increasingly in today’s world. It’s in songs, in literature and you’ll find it written across T-shirts and sweatshirts in different forms. Yet, what does it actually mean? Dictionary defines the word as – ‘giving power or authority’ or ‘freedom to do something”. People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, economic decision making and lifestyle.
Women empowerment is a social action that accepts and allows women who are on the outside of the decision-making process into it. This puts a strong emphasis on participation in the economic sphere, on the ability to obtain an income and includes the action of raising the status of women through education, awareness raising, literacy and training. This forms the basis of our Widow’s empowerment programme here at ACT.
Our work in Africa is helping to promote optimism and the confidence that women/widows need to achieve their goals. Often, the gender dialogue makes many women feel powerless. They are easily made to feel that they at the bottom of the social hierarchy with constrained access to health, education and economic decision making. This is then reinforced following the death of a husband or father who had always carried the burden of providing for the family. When the breadwinner passes away, there are economic consequences for the family because of the lack of access to a steady income. There is the challenge of ‘time poverty’ as the woman often is overcome with daily chores, from taking care of a baby and young children to ensuring there is food to eat, water to drink and a roof over their heads. Much of a woman’s day is overwhelmingly busy. This makes it difficult to dedicate the time to earn an income, particularly when she is uneducated and has no special skills. In societies where the status quo dictates that it is a man that controls the resources and inherits land, it makes women feel trapped without any hope. The consequence is that she and her children are thrown further into poverty as she struggles to provide for the basic needs of her family.
Yet, through an understanding of empowerment, we can tackle this narrative through counselling, education, training and support. Raising awareness is the start of allowing widows and women to analyse their situation and begin to realise they too can be a part of the cycle of change. We support the costs of their children’s education and provide training in literacy and life skills which she can use throughout her life. Training is provided on inheritance rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, sanitation and health. Business skills workshops train women to work together and provides access to microloans to start up an enterprise. With training and exposure to new information, people and ideas, the women begin to be empowered and confident and believe in themselves. They are able to challenge the barriers within their communities and gain the freedom they deserve.
This is how ACT is empowering women and vulnerable widows in communities in the 8 African countries where we operate. You can read more about our Women empowerment programme, Click here.
Help us to empower more women. Make a difference in the life of a widow. Please click here to donate.