How do we make women issues the issues of other women?

I have had a lot of time to think about the different issues women globally have to deal with. As we all know, the issues are many, from cultural barriers to unequal wages. When I received the opportunity to contribute to the women empowerment blog, I did not know what to write about, mostly because what I wanted to say did not sound as influential as the posts I had been reading. And although, for a moment, that excuse was good, that was not my truth. All our lives and experiences, when shared, can bring about a solution, a lesson and a change. 

What is my truth? Until I left my country to study abroad I did not know what feminism was, or its role in the economic empowerment of women. To be honest, I am not certain that I know the definition of feminism; it is widely subjective and that has always made it somewhat difficult for me to understand, as I found out in my brief research. I went to an all-girls secondary school, I was raised in a predominantly female household and, therefore, I have not necessarily experienced any prejudices due to my gender. I was always told I could do whatever I set my mind to. The battle was never between male and female. The battle was between the person I was and the person I wanted to be in the future.

The older we get, the more blurred the world we live in seems to get. We know about unequal salaries between men and women, we know of the domestic violence suffered by many women, we know of young girls either denied access to education or attacked due to their desire to get one, we know how common rape is in wartime. We know of the many injustices, we see them on the news. My fear is that the fight for women’s empowerment is seen as too removed from people who have no experience of the numerous injustices that need to be put right.

I asked a few of my friends I went to school with, and those friends I met in my adult life about this, and most of us have not felt that we have been victims of prejudice due to our gender. Yes, there is the occasional stereotype of ‘one cannot aim too high in one’s career as one is female’, but many of the friends I spoke to have defied the stereotype and have gone further than expected. Maybe some owe it to the fact that being in an all-girls school trained them early on to be ready for anything the world was to throw at them, some owe it to their upbringing where both boys and girls were treated equally, while others are simply unstoppable forces. This, of course, does not mean we do not understand gender issues, we understand them very well despite not having directly experienced them.

The question is, how do we engage men and women who feel far removed from what they have not experienced or what they do not understand? How do we interrupt our places of comfort and shout: ‘Look, it is not only the fight of Iranian women, it is not only the fight of Guatemalan women, it is not only the fight of Pakistani women, it is not only the fight of Chad women, it is not only the fight of Malala, it is not only the fight of women’s organizations. If those women lose, we lose too. It is our fight too.’

I wonder, if someone had not spearheaded the cause of women, would we be just as courageous? Maybe if those women had not the courage to fight for the empowerment of women, to fight for a law that protected women, and had protested endlessly for equality, perhaps we too could have been the woman married to her rapist, the woman enslaved in sex trafficking, the uneducated woman, the woman with no access to family planning, the woman who has endured domestic abuse, the woman who possesses the right qualifications but will never get the position she deserves at work.

I raise the question, how do we engage women and men who are too far removed from the issues hindering the empowerment of women? 

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  • Evelyn Karungi
    I am so glad that the discussion is open and we are all brainstorming how we can make these women issues relevant to both genders. Indeed we can now continue to find solutions together from education, to fighting domestic violence and to creating employment for women. With economic empowerment women will be equipped with means to support their families, educate their children and stand up against violence among many other causes.
  • Heeshma Chhatralia
    Your blog is very insightful Evelyn. Spreading awareness and promoting the need to encourage women empowerment - the benefits of a global and sustainable society - might be helpful. Though sometimes, there does arise a situation in which are aware of what is happening, but don’t know what to do next or perhaps are not strong enough to pursue that issue. So I guess highlighting how this affects, you me and everyone can be a good start.
  • Renu Ghimire
    Thank you Evelyn for highlighting the issue of women empowerment from a different angle. This is indeed a thought provoking piece and the question you posed at last is a challenge faced by most of the people advocating women's economic empowerment.
  • Samalie Nabagwisa
    Thank you Evelyn for this piece,very thought provoking and I am proud that we attended the same school and share a passion: women issues and empowerment.
  • Mary Mkoji
    Thanks quite thought provoking...... This blog has more or less similar theme with an article that was circulating on Facebook last week and how women have mastered the art of De-escalation..... Yes we need to join forces and work together. it is also important to recognize that the bigger battle is the one in the mind concerning attitude,culture and perceptions
  • Joy Eze
    Thank you for sharing,i like your write you said this is a fight for every one and I agree with you.To your question, I think we should start the engagement of this set men and and women with a strong Campaign that will be very effective globally.I really believe it is our fight,I am working and fighting to see rural women in leadership position.And I believe with our collective effort we will over come these problems.
  • Catherine wachu
    Evelyn, The question is, how do we engage men and women who feel far removed from what they have not experienced or what they do not understand? A valid good question. What is forgotten is that what affects one affects the other, with all this I appreciate the differences in both genders. There is so much in the society that puts a woman down, unequal employment opportunities, salaries/wages, among others if we held our hands as responsible men and women to support each other, the world would be a better place to live in. Thanks, it was a wonderful read.
  • Tonny Okello
    Thanks Evelyn Karungi for this insightful writing. No doubt many out there including me in the first place had the same thought of mind. Sometimes we don't need to wait for someone to tell something need to be done, something its personal initiative to do get something done. Perhaps, that's individuals like me and you and all others in this cause have come up independently to shade more light the issues of women empowerment. To answer your question, this is how i will put it. 1. Not being aware is not being unable. The women and men who are far removed from issues hindering women empowerment are simply not aware of these issues, we need to get them aware. The focus here is wide sensitization, massive dissemination of information using the easiest means each one of us can afford. Internet, community engagement, churches, mosques, youth gathering, schools, universities, newspapers, radio shows, companies that offer employment are all agencies that can be used to pass on the information. 2. Understanding what women empowerment is and what benefits it has. We all know most of us or most people out there do anything while looking at the benefits it comes with. When i volunteered to become a global champ for women economic empowerment the question i asked myself was; "How do i use my knowledge and experience of empowerment to change someone's life so that they benefit from my knowledge and experience?" i oppose the knowledge and experience of empowerment but of what good is it to me if i cannot transfer it to someone else? If we can all answer this question to someone out there then the mentality of how things are seen will definitely change. Additionally, benefits can be interms of impact. Women economic empowerment, what them after? What we want to make the women and men out there understand and appreciate is the impact of empowering women economically. is about about overriding their fellow men's abilities? NO! is about the women taking over responsibility from the men? NO! we need to make them realize that empowering women economically does not only relief each man, each woman , each society or country but leads to increase in productivity, household income, reduces domestic violence especially against women, and reduces dependence syndrome. Finally if i may quot this "it is not only the fight of Iranian women, it is not only the fight of Guatemalan women, it is not only the fight of Pakistani women, it is not only the fight of Chad women, it is not only the fight of Malala, it is not only the fight of women’s organizations. If those women lose, we lose too. It is our fight too" It is our fight, it is a fight we shall all we can not to lose!
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