We mainly use the word empowerment in most of the programs or activities in the communities we are part of, we use the word empowerment in school, work, church and other organizations. It is also familiar in social media platforms where the word empowerment usually used as a hashtag word for twitter, Instagram and facebook, but what is the real meaning of empowerment?
Empowerment comes from a root word power. I think empowerment of an individual is different from others. Empowerment is also an art, it is an art of transition.
Empowerment refers on measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.
Empowerment as action refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources. To do work with power. (1.a)
From a critical point of view, empowerment is associated with the transformation and awareness of a society, which leads to liberation. It is the result of a reflective praxis (Freire, 2011). A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes, (Gandhi).
Self- empowered people possesses the pride of accomplishment as they develop themselves. The empowerment of an individual is the backbone of the society or nation. With individual empowerment comes people empowerment which extends to group empowerment. An empowered community is the result of more empowered people in the community. (2)
It was 2014 when I started painting, I usually paint feelings and emotions, I paint without references and I directly paint on canvases and walls without previous studies. I use my own story, experience and imagination, translate it into an illustration or painting. I felt happiness, sadness, anger, frustrations, excitement and freedom in painting.
Looking back on the history of art, according to the timeline, art has evolved since the prehistoric art up to the present time which is the age of post-modernist art. Art is categorized by style and movement but strongly categorized by time. Expressive art is part of post- modern art. (3)
Robert Stecker’s, Definition of Art, specified that art should be distinguished from a philosophical theory with vaguer boundaries. The theory of art depends on the response toward the artworks, it depends on its characteristics like formality, representation, expressiveness, social, historical, institutional and intentional properties. (4)
I had no idea on what kind of art or movement I am in to, what I know is that I enjoy painting and it is my way of releasing feelings. Most of my first-year outputs are expressions from my frustrations. Frustrations that I am poor and lack in knowledge in painting. Although I got a lot of criticism from other people, I still pursued painting because it gives me peace and contentment, every painting is an achievement. I know for sure that it is my passion.
Eventually I realized that the term for such art is an expressive art which is used for art therapy.
I continued painting, I paint on papers, canvases, bags, jeans, shirt even on the walls, eventually friends and families are buying my artworks, and it became my income generating project. I though that it was the best time to set up my own studio. 2015 I started my homebased studio Yllang artworks.
According to W. Dykcik, art therapy is "spontaneous, uninhibited creativity of a man associated with the use of widely understood works of art and doing arts (e.g. drawing, painting, modeling, sculpting, singing, dancing, poetry, biographies and memoirs, reading etc.).
Expressive arts therapies are defined as the use of art, music, theater, dance, poetry, writing, bibliotherapy within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or medicine. Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative” when various arts are purposively used in combination in treatment. (5.1)
Even though there are medical preferences on art therapy, I personally didn’t undergo on these procedures, one factor is that I can’t afford psychological consultations, which made me believe on the art of self-healing.
The Psychological state can impact on the physical and psychological health, one should turn into creative techniques to identify the mental state of the patient, one best practice is the spontaneous drawing. (6)
My best medicines are help and support from family, friends and community added the resiliency and self-help art therapy helped me cope up with stress and depression.
From art therapy on being an artist, I torn the boundaries of being a former migrant worker, feminist and artist. My personal perspective, on the definition of art, is “art has no definition”, it should be defined and only by the artists psychological intention, time and the geographical situation.
I said this because of my personal experiences. My definition in art has changed.
When I was a little girl I describe art as an enjoyment and colors, it gives me happiness. During high school, I described art as a project, it should be neat and presentable, for the sake of competition for the highest grade in art subject. When I was on my 20’s I described art as an entertainment and money, I used the art of music to entertain people and for a living. If art for me was a meditation and diary on 2014, 2015 while working as a volunteer leader in the community, I clearly defined art as my main weapon in amplifying women’s voice, my artworks are made for raising awareness, change and justice for women and children. Now while working on my journey on being an artist, my definition in art is indefinite, art is ambiguous.
Now that I defined the words, empowerment and art, my question is how can these two words be coherent for women? I am an empowered woman and artist, I want to do something about it. I asked two women from my network about their point of view on women empowerment through art.
“Women shout for equal roles and opportunities and until now we are still in need to raise awareness about how women are treated in workplace, at home, in school, in corporate world, in health and social services and in the political arena. Art and Literature are two of the best avenues for empowering women because women can be the subject itself. The issues and concerns on women shared in art can be an avenue of raising awareness, it can lift the spirit, can create movement, policies and many more. In short, every woman has a story to tell, her capacity to share and empower is so strong that no strong ruler can suppress. (Zuniga, 2018)
2015, The same year when I started to focus on painting, I was introduced in the organization Batis-AWARE (Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment). Batis- AWARE is an independent, self-help people’s organization with members of migrant women workers mostly women workers from Middle East, Asia, Europe and Australia.
The organization was formed in 1996 from W.E.P. Women Empowerment Program of the Non- government organization Batis Center for Women. Batis AWARE became independent in 2004. Now there are 20-30 active members, some are working and living abroad and some are like me who have decided to stay here in the Philippines. (7) I joined the organization and eventually became the leader of Batis-AWARE.
A short background about myself as a migrant worker. I was an overseas performing artist in Japan since 2000 up to 2010, when I decided to stay in the Philippines which I think is the best and the toughest decision I made in my life.
I worked and lived in Japan for 10 years. I was afraid to come back and stay in the Philippines because I am afraid to be back on my past life, the hardship of struggling financially. But I made up my mind, I want to make a change and so I stayed.
Being part of the organization is a fruitful experience, this is where the art of empowerment for myself began. I learned so many things about women, children and migrant’s rights thru education and training programs of the organization.
I learned that women and children are the most vulnerable in violence and women are categorized by its group.
Examples of vulnerable groups (list is not exhaustive) 1. Women form ethnic minorities
2. Women from certain religious groups
3. Women in rural areas
5. Elderly women
6. Lesbian and bi-sexual women
9. Disabled women
10. HIV infected women
11. Sex workers
12. Migrant- and refugee women
13. Domestic workers (8).
“The migrant women of Batis-AWARE are some of the bravest women I know. Many of them endured precarious and oppressive working condition in order to give their families a better life. They are survivors. The least I can do is help them tell their own stories and create spaces for their stories to be heard. (Cruz, 2018) on Women empowerment Through art and literature.
Migrant women are part of marginalized sector. The same stories and experiences, like mine; hearing the struggles, survivals and unfinished businesses and stories of women with their children inside the organization inspired me and pushed my limitations as a painter and leader.
If 2014 and 2015 I mostly painted my stories and experiences, 2016 I started painting women stories as well I started conducting art workshops by organizing small group of women in the community.
Batis - AWARE is s self-help organization, usually I had to prepare a month on raising funds, by crowd funding and sourcing campaigns, offline and online using social media platforms. I do this to sustain every organizational activities like art workshop and other program and activities of the organization. “Empowerment can set people free by encouraging them to participate in community activities and exercise citizenship.” (Tello, 2017).
Because of social media platforms, friends, and networks, some non-government and governmental agencies started to invite me, to facilitate art workshop and art therapy.
At that moment I learn that I can use my disruptive past experiences, as my strength and be an inspiration to others. Since then I never stop speaking and painting, because I know I am making something that can help others. I thought that sharing my limited ability in painting is like sharing my dreams and ambition to every participant.
The outputs from every workshop are amazing, most of the participants are first time painters, but the paintings are beautiful. Then I started to believe that all women are naturally born creative and artists.
I am not an expert and I didn’t study psychology everything that I share is by far only from out of my curiosity and experience.
The same year I got an international invitation, the purpose is to create a mural, an art advocacy for migrants in Japan. After a whole day of conceptualization and a week of painting, July 2016, I finished “The Empowerment of All People” mural 122 x 182 cm, wall at SALA Asian Shokudo, located at Motomachi, Kobe Japan.
The concept of “The Empowerment of All People” is regardless of nationality, both men and women, both children and pregnant women should be accepted in the society. The society should accept and recognize each their values.
SALA aims to create more employment places for "staying at home" Asian women who have problems on employment. In Japan the usual work for women is mainly in the food business. An empowered women are employed and independent.
Empowerment through the business SALA, hopes to expand the cycle and aim to increase staying Asian ladies to stay lively in Japanese society without hesitation. (9)
As the artist of “Empowerment of All People” the painting is a representation of every migrant workers in Japan. It is a shout for dignity and equality in the aspect of role, job and status of every migrant worker.
Arts can be used for expression and empowerment. (A feminist graffiti in Cairo, Egypt.) (10)
The same year Batis-AWARE started to write an anthology, in collaboration with Youth and Beauty brigade and National Book Development board, August 2016, DALOY zine was launched. Daloy is a collection of writings by the Filipino migrant women of Batis-AWARE.
Creative writing and painting are part of therapeutic art, both are tools in empowering communities. Daloy became part of the activity of the organization where it is planned to create an exposition every year. This month, October 2018 in collaboration with Youth and Beauty Brigade, Gantala Press and Empowerment Through Art, Batis AWARE will launch the 2nd edition of Daloy.(12)
While speaking is the fastest way on disseminating information, writing is one of the best tool in explaining addressing information. Writing is for explaining words that cannot be expressed by painting and other forms of art, wherein the contrary visual art is one the best tool for an artist to express feelings and emotions that cannot be explained by words or texts.
Women need to create spaces that recognise that it is on their mind, body, in all its specificities, that is significant in understanding women's patriarchal oppression. (13)
Because of these exposures, I searched for something that will help myself. How can I develop my capabilities as a leader and artist?
2017 when I joined world pulse’s online leadership training and vital voices VV lead program, both are international organizations that helps and supports women leaders from all over the globe. My goal is to develop my self as a leader and artist, how can I be an effective leader while being a mother and artist at the same time. How can I use my innate resources in empowering my community?
April the same year, I founded E.T.A. or Empowerment Through Art It is an awareness and fundraising campaign for Batis-AWARE. This is my personal program on helping my community to stand alone, where migrant women and aspiring artists can gather and create artworks from their imaginations and use it as a tool for empowerment.
This is also based on my personal experience, I personally have seen and experience women and children suffer, I know how art can change the way people think and change lives. I want to share it not only to my organization but to every women who have not reached their full potential.
#8 Traits of people who reached their full potential, They are aware of the power of the imagination and channel it in a constructive way. They're not afraid to think outside the box, develop something new and live in the grey area. (14)
If last year, E.T.A. is composed of 1 artist which is only me, today the group is composed of 15 men and women aspiring self-taught and trained artists who supports the advocacy on empowering, influencing communities through art. The group is focused on creating art works that will be the voice for voiceless women and children in the society. E.T.A. is the voice of marginalized vulnerable groups of women. (15)
Currently I am studying Fine Arts major in painting at The University of the Philippines, I am still and always in search on how to develop my craft and art. I am still a girl at heart who wants to learn, to experiment and explore on how art can be a way on empowering more people.
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