Introduction to the World of Women’s Empowerment

May 29, 2024 by
Basmah Osman

  The world of women's empowerment is a much broader and more complex subject than most realize. In addressing national and global challenges, now more than ever, we would benefit from a deeper understanding. Women’s empowerment isn’t just about women; it's about human rights and development for everyone (Batool et al., 2016). For quite a while now, people have been saying more empowered women will help bridge the gap between men and women. The larger truth is, empowering women is essential for moving society forward (Batool et al., 2016). But here's the complex part: Women's empowerment isn't just one thing. It's like this a complicated 5000-piece puzzle, and we've got to look at it from all angles—social, psychological, economic, you name it (Zimmerman, 1995; Malhotra et al., 2002; Thani and Mokhtarian, 2012; Manuere and Phiri, 2018). And it doesn’t end with giving women power; it's extends to making sure they have the skills to use it effectively. Because, let's face it, a lot of women already have the intelligence and the strength; they just need the chance to demonstrate it (Mishra, 2014; Valarmathi and Hepsipa, 2014).

So, what exactly is women's empowerment anyway? Well, put quite nicely, it's all about women recognizing and fixing the things that are holding them back (Longwe 1998). See, when women are empowered, it's not just good for them; it's good for everyone. When women feel empowered, it helps build strong families, tight-knit communities, and ultimately, thriving nations (Gupta 2018). Moreover, women's empowerment is also about giving women the power to make important choices in their lives—choices they might not have had before (Huis et al 2017).

Now, what does women's empowerment look like in action? It's like going on a journey where women start to see all the possibilities out there and start working toward them (Lazo 1995). And Huis et al. (2017) introduce a compelling three-dimensional model that breaks down empowerment into various levels: personal, community, and systemic, emphasizing the need for wide-ranging changes to be more fair to women.

But here's a very central aspect many people in development may not have pondered much on: Psychological empowerment. It's a vast dimension as well! Even though we've got lots of programs to help women with money and resources, not enough is done to support their mental health (Yadav 2019). And that's where psychological empowerment is needed. It revolves around women recognizing they have an inner strength and helping them grow it even more (Spreitzer and Doneson, 2005; Smalley et al., 2010).

See, the thing about psychological empowerment extends beyond just feeling good; it's about feeling like you are capable of doing things—moving from “I can’t” to “I can.” Even if women have all the opportunities in the world, they won't really be empowered unless they believe in themselves (Oladipo 2009). And that's what psychological empowerment is all about: feeling like you're in control, feeling like you're good at what you do, and feeling like you can make your own choices (Spreitzer, 1995).

When women feel psychologically empowered, it's like they've got this special force fueling them. They're more confident, they can stand up for themselves, they've got more freedom to choose what they want to do, and they're better at dealing with tough situations (Parveen and Leonhauser, 2005). And guess what? There are actually ways to measure how psychologically empowered someone is! Scholars have come up with all these indicators like "impact," "competence," and "choice" to help us understand it better (Hackman and Oldham, 1980; Ashforth, 1989; Bell and Staw, 1989; Brief and Nord, 1990; Gist and Mitchell, 1992; Batool and Batool, 2018).

We can’t ignore here that there is a catch in psychological empowerment: It's not something that stays the same forever; it isn’t static. It changes depending on what's going on in a person's life and in the world around them (Spreitzer, 1995). And it's not like there's just one way to get there, either. Pandey (2016) says that it's all about helping women feel like they can control their own lives and have the resources they need to do it. And that's something we can all work towards, whether we're women ourselves or we're just trying to help out (Yadav, 2019).


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