“The empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description.”
Every day that I live, the more I see this quote to be true. My entire life I have been able to see with my own eyes the beauty of having an empowered woman within society. This past week, I have had the blessing of being able to meet some powerful and amazing women. I’ve been able to hear such touching stories about how these women have made sacrifices, overcome obstacles, and grown courage to be in the position that they are in today.
Every NGO that we have visited during this week has focused on the power that women have. By giving the women of villages knowledge, training, and opportunities, they have been able to create endless possibilities for themselves as well as for their families.
When visiting one NGO, we sat and listened to the stories of the women about how they were able to make their bank through a loaning system. The women use these loans to support their agriculture, livestock, and businesses. they used the small opportunity that this organization gave them and were able to build to it and make it something for their villages, families, and themselves.
They told of stories of how before they were a part of this group, they weren’t allowed to leave the house or speak much, and they were expected to keep their face covered. They were utterly dependent on their husbands. Joining the women’s group allowed them to learn about their rights and recognize that they don’t belong in the house, but that they can also make contributions to the world.
Through this empowerment, the women learned how to speak up for themselves and become true leaders in their environments. And as one lady said during our discussion, “This group has helped empower me to empower other women.”
There is so much beauty in how selflessly women can love and care for others. While women are expected to be nurturers, society often put them into a box of what that may look like. For many, the nurture of a female is generally them being a stay-at-home-mother or spending the majority of her time caring for the family.
The women at Barefoot College, the other NGO that my group visited, challenged the perception of working women. When visiting the international center at Barefoot College, I had the opportunity to talk to some women from Mali.
They traveled to India to attend Barefoot College’s engineering program for 6 months. They had already been there for 4 months and all of these women were married and had children. So of course, I had to ask why they decided to come and how do they feel being away from their family for so long.
They told me how there aren’t many jobs and opportunities for them back home and coming to this program guarantees them both a job and the materials needed to perform it.
They spoke about how this was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed upon because not only does it provide a better income for their family, but it provides electricity for their village, future opportunities for their children, and it gives them a chance to share new knowledge with their community.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
These are the stories that remind me of the power in women, and the changes that can happen when people invest time and believe in the abilities of females. Before this trip, anytime I told someone I was going to India they would caution me about the treatment of women. I was always told how “women aren’t treated the same” and how I needed to know that I might not receive the same respect as I do in the States.
I was on edge when first coming here because I wasn’t sure what type of treatment to expect. But my time here has taught me a lot about women empowerment overseas. While India does deal with different cultural issues regarding women empowerment, there are still many similarities to what women face in America. Even though in the U.S. we don’t have to worry about domestic violence, we still have the same underlying issues regarding domestic violence.
We still share the same issues regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, unequal pay, and more. I’ve learned that women empowerment isn’t divided by certain countries in the world, but it is a collective movement. While I might not personally know the struggles as an Indian woman, I do know that this is a fight that also involves me. I know that I can use my privilege and voice to help other women.