What are necessary tools for women empowerment
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OPINION: As another Women’s Month vanishes, let us remember that the progress of our nation is inevitably linked with the social and economic empowerment of women, writes Felleng Yende.
Empowerment is one of the most talked about buzzwords of our generation. As a leader in the skills development sector, I have analysed it, lived with it and shared it with others.
As our country marks the end of August as Women’s Month under the theme “The year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: realising women’s rights,” we have once again been reminded that empowerment is about equitable access to the tools of economic development, the distribution of power and influence.
It is poignant that we celebrate Maxeke’s legacy during these trying times. History books describe her legacy as one of the most important turning points for the pursuit of women's rights in South Africa, as she inspired not only women, but also generations of male leaders to aspire to education and self-reliance.
In one of the few speeches she was allowed to make at a conference as quoted by her biographer, Zubeida Jaffer, Maxeke remarked:“We want men who are the salvation of the young girls of their nation, who can depend on their presence; we need men who will humble themselves, so that the nation may lift them up to be the stars of Africa for future generations. That is what Africa wants. That is what the women of Africa are weeping and praying for.“
In recent years women empowerment has become a subject of great debate for us as a nation. Empowerment as a concept was introduced at one of the first women’s conference in Nairobi in 1985, almost 50 years after Maxeke’s death.
The International Women’s Conference defined empowerment as “A redistribution of social power and control of resources in favour of women. Empowerment is a multi-faceted process which encompasses many aspects, such as enhancing awareness, increasing access to resources of economic, social and political and others.”
Tools to live with everyday
So based on this definition and many others after it and as women empowerment has become a hinge that joins us all together in partnership and not confrontation with our brothers, husbands or spouses, what are women’s tools for self-empowerment?
Here are the five tools I leverage every day: assertiveness; decision-making power; granting myself options to make the choice of saying “yes” or “no”; understanding that I have rights and self-initiated growth.
I believe that these characteristics and tools are necessary for one to become empowered.
Being assertive is being able to engage in a discussion or debate in an honest and respectful way without being arrogant or aggressive or feeling guilty. I respect and love women who are assertive, just as Maxeke was.
As women we should not be afraid to speak, while we speak with humility and honesty, as women we should not be afraid to be genuinely confident.
Every day one is called upon to make decisions. Some are easy. Some are difficult. But they may be life-changing.
It is human to often suffer from decision paralysis. It is understandable when you want to be sure to get it right. But for me, a decision is better than no decision at all.
You have to move past fear and doubt, irrespective of your circumstances. You can start taking control of your life’s outcomes, something which is self-empowering.
Choice of saying ‘yes’or ‘no’
It is in our nature to want options. The consequences of saying “yes” or “no” can be unclear and without thoughtfulness, our decisions can lead to regret, frustration, confusion, resentment, and even diminished confidence.
I frankly understand that a “no” without thoughtful consideration can see you miss out on extraordinary opportunities for growth, fulfilment, and advancement. Trust yourself; you will find a way to manage it when you have decided to say “yes”.
Understanding that I have rights
Every woman has a right to live, work and prosper. We acquired these rights when we were born. These are called human rights because every person has them. These are legal rights backed by the law and enshrined in our Constitution.
It is important for every one of us women to know our rights so that if people try to take them away, we can stop them.
Close to these rights are our responsibilities. These responsibilities are the things which others expect us to do. Responsible people know what their rights are and respect the rights of others. Being responsible means we care about other people. So let us know our rights and responsibilities.
Self-initiated personal growth
Every person should has an opportunity to develop to one’s full potential. Personal growth is part of every woman’s success and happiness.
Every successful woman I know has placed a great deal of importance on continuous personal growth and development. Even at the peak of their careers, they still find time from the busy schedules of leading organisations to push themselves to achieve more, thus stepping out of their comfort zone to unleash their inner potential and capabilities. I admire such women.
That is why even as I guided the Fibre, Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) SETA to meet and exceed organisational objectives and performance standards, including achieving four unqualified and clean audit outcomes during the past six years, I have found time to complete a qualification in Digital Business Strategy from the globally recognised Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.
I am now completing a PhD degree in public sector leadership and management and fourth industrial revolution digital technology.
I believe in personal growth. For every woman, the opportunities and possibilities of personal growth should be endless. We want to learn as much as we want, continue to grow and achieve self-empowerment.
Let us continue work towards attaining a dignified and satisfying way of life through confidence, competence, self-respect, rights and responsibilities.
As another Women’s Month vanishes, let us remember that the progress of our nation is inevitably linked with the social and economic empowerment of women.
*Yende is CEO of the FP&M SETA which facilitates skills development programmes for 13 sub-sectors including clothing, footwear, textiles and wood products and others.