Women's Empowerment and Collective Action

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente
Posted March 22, 2021 from Chile

A few days ago, I had the beautiful opportunity to talk with some women leaders from Talcahuano, a port in southern Chile, about the questions: How do we empower ourselves? and what do we need for it? I share some of the conclusions of this productive journey of mutual learning.

I want to start by defining what empowerment is. Women's empowerment is the process or set of processes that allow the increase of the transversal participation of women in all aspects of their personal and social life. Therefore, it has a direct relationship with the strengthening of women's citizenship.

Women are told to "empower ourselves", as if saying it had a magical effect, without considering the impact that support, mobilization and learning networks have on making this possible. It is even intended that women in a clear situation of disadvantage, minority and social marginalization, "empower themselves" deliberately ignoring factors such as class, income, educational level, geography, ethnicity or race, motherhood, age , job or economic precariousness, immigration status, play a role in making it more or less possible.

Currently, the government, civil society and businesses carry out initiatives to empower women, meaning that activating capacity building to increase their participation and generate beneficial changes in terms of equality in the individual and social context. But it is not enough, because also we need a change in attitudes in the direct environment of women, regarding greater autonomy and connection with the public space. Women's citizenship begins in the privacy of the home. As Julieta Kirkwood, a Chilean researcher and activist, used to say: "Democracy in the country, at home and in the street."

Empowerment is closely related to social participation; the exercise of integral citizenship, which should not be confused with the passivity of people in the reception of a service or the presence as mere spectators of public management. Participation means that women become agents of change who take part in decisions to define priorities, plan solutions and demand accountability regarding matters that influence their quality of life. This implies listening to their opinions and valuing their knowledge with the same relevance as the opinions and knowledge of academics, professionals or technocrats.

One of the women in the workshop shared a clarifying reflection:

“To be a social leader and participate, a woman needs to coordinate life with her husband, with her family, to concentrate on doing things in the neighborhood. For me it is important to know that my children and my husband are happy with what I do, that they support me, that they take care of the house when I am not there. I become an accomplished human being to the extent that others also collaborate with those accomplishment."

  • Empowering women requires collective action and external initiatives that engage the individual, social and governmental level.
  • Take into account the role that the family and the participation of children and partners in housework have in facilitating the social participation of women.
  • Educate the community about the importance of empowering women at a personal and collective level, so that this is seen as a positive process and not from a macho perspective.
  • Strong networks within the community to increase collective action for inclusion and a sense of belonging.
  • Development and construction of capacities for integral citizenship and social participation.
  • Policies to support the active participation of women in the public sphere and their role as co-managers in the planning of strategies that improve life and decision-making, which also facilitates the acquisition of skills to relate to the municipality, the regional government and other public bodies, obtain available resources and defend the rights that correspond to them as citizens.

As one woman participant said

"I do not like being always in the public as spectator. I would like to be invited to give my opinion. In my years in the Neighborhood Council I have learned a lot about working with the community and I have knowledge that I can share with other people, for the collective well being."

Comments 14

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valem
Mar 23
Mar 23

Helo sister Vanessa
How are you?
thank you so much for sharing

Zohra Elias
Mar 23
Mar 23

Hello Vanessa,

Thank you for sharing your story with us,

It's indeed, an interesting and crucial subject "empowering women",

Keep posting more.

Best regards,

J.Nuttall
Mar 24
Mar 24

Thank you sister this shines a light on what we need to empower each other and create more room for women in our society. All elbows out ladies!

charlenegailtaruwona

Hello Vanessa,
Thank you for sharing.
This subject is very important and we need to devote to empowering ourselves as this is another way to help fight abuse and violence against women.

Rebeca Song
Mar 24
Mar 24

Hello Vanessa! Thank you so much for sharing your opinion with us. One thing is true, many people devote their time and effort to causes in which they believe that empowers women, without even knowing what empowerment means. This is a very important and crucial text for those who wish to have a better and healthy community. It even helped me to better understand the term and how we can be empowered! Empowerment of women needs to be applied to the whole world, not only in developing countries. Thanks once again for this beautiful enlightenment.

rebecca.tang
Mar 25
Mar 25

Thank you for sharing. It is inspiring. Agree that women should be empowered. We can make a lot of contribution to the community, family, etc. Being a woman, it is not easy. We play a lot of roles at the same : we have our jobs, a mother, a wife, someone's daughter, etc.
Let's work hard together! May Almighty God bless us all!

Juliana Imoisili
Mar 25
Mar 25

Thanks sister for sharing,Even the home too is a place of empowerment,the husband and children be supportive of what you done and taking responsibility and care for the home when you are not around , makes you fulfilled and Happy,This will really help the empowerment of women is voices are let out,so it won't be that the woman just have to stress, labour herself and the end,the home, business, carrier and family is in echoes, because of too much work load ,and lack of proper management.

ARREY- ECHI
Mar 26
Mar 26

Hello Vanessa,
Great to read from you and trust that you are doing well. Thank you for sharing this and helping us see the various faces of women empowerment. I do agree with the participant who said knowing that her husband and kids are well and supportive of her is important. It sure does help to keep going in efforts to impact the society a lot easier. Also, I couldn't agree more with this line : "I do not like being always in the public as spectator. I would like to be invited to give my opinion" That is so very true.
Looking forward to more updates from you.

Jen Ross
Mar 26
Mar 26

Great story Vanessa. It's so important to unpack what we mean by 'empowerment'. Saludos de otra chilena....

Wow Great! You are doing well, I am also in empowering women. The issue about is very important to women because if they are in empower a whole family is empower. But I like to know you more and get understanding on community engagement.

Chi8629
Mar 27
Mar 27

Hello Lovely .
Good morning to you .hope you are fine and safe ? Thank you for sharing this wonderful and powerful writeup with us about empowering women. When you empower women you empower a nation . Thank you for the good you do for the betterment of human kind. Keep it up sister , you are appreciated and valued . Thank you .

MariaJ Vargas
Apr 01
Apr 01

Hola Vanessa, Thanks very much for sharing your experience with us. As you said Empowerment is a word that can be understood as many things and unfortunately not because we do a lot we are empowering our women specially those on the streets of our poorest neighbourhoods in Latinomerica. I strongly believe Empowerment is a mix of the right opportunity, education and belief in our own-self. This can only be obtained through a bonding and growing relationship with our families, with our environment, with the systems around us like the school system, the government and state and the economic systems.

Rosegold
Apr 03
Apr 03

What a wonderful post.. It lovley we can empoer ourselves but I feel we need to empower those around us. With my campaign I have just started for women and young girls Be body confident!
First step is to love ourselves, know we are worth everything and then offer a hand to those around us that need it we can empower each other. But someone needs to take the first step and show the way and say look what can be achieved, we can be stronger together.