Inside our small room, I secretly whispered my last night's ordeal to my immediate elder sister. My voice was hardly audible because of my swollen jaw. It was so excruciating that I could neither open my mouth widely nor speak audibly. What made it worse were my eyes that refused to dry and my heart that refused to heal.
I was in tears, bitter tears, throughout the conversation; it was as if my life could be replayed, allowed me to add and delete some horrible scenes and retrace some mistaken steps. Alas, it was impossible. It reminds me of my mother’s wise saying that some rivers cannot be crossed twice.
As I continued to narrate my story to my sister, I watched as her eyes penetrated and burrowed into my soul and beyond; it was deep, and her helplessness screamed at my hearing when she opened her mouth to respond.
She said, “How will you survive if you decide to leave because he beat you? There is nothing that can be done about this situation, you have searched for a job in the past years – no success; you have no special skills that can sustain you and your daughter; it will be hard for you to move out, if it is just to teach him a lesson, as you suggested.”
She continued, “Tosin, you have to endure and continue to persevere, this is when you learn about marriage and as you already know, a husband’s house is a school for only the wife, because there is no lesson to teach a man in his own home – he has learned how to live his life by the model he got from his father and the lessons his mother taught him, in his formative years.” She went further: “Our culture, religion and available institutions have been created to favour men, so what will a woman without work do to teach her husband a lesson? You cannot follow me to my husband’s house, neither can you go back to mamee in the village; she can barely feed herself, pray to God and leave the rest.”
As she was rounding off her statement, she stood up, refused to eat the food that I set before her, and she did not even look back as she carried her bag and left our house. Not even a glance at the baby that I laid on the bed, not a farewell kiss to my innocent baby. My sister was very sad, but she left me behind, sadder, without proffering a solution to my problem.
That was more than a decade ago.
The unforgettable battering taught me a huge lesson that will last a lifetime: what will a woman without work do even when a woman with work could hardly stand against battering by her husband?
I decided to stop my pity party narration and move on with my life; this time around, to live a purposeful life, with my head held high and “marry my work” as a my mother used to hammer into my hearing in those days “a woman’s work is her number one husband”. Now, I realize that with work will I thrive; with a husband will I survive in a community that worships man.
Knowing my next step was easy; because I know what I wanted: I wanted to be engaged in what I love to do, yet making enough money to survive, thrive and be creative. I searched within and I was convinced that I love color – my mother worked with colors and it flashes in my mind always.
In order to modernize what I already know, I have had to involve people who have adequate knowledge of what I want to do. I want money but that is not enough; I want my self esteem back – at all costs. The greatest disempowerment that a woman can face in a developing world is work without pay. The highest work without pay is the work women do in their homes; raising great girls and boys for the world.
My life took a new turn when I began to create, re-create, market my creations, make money and save money in my personal account, for the first time in my life. This does not just affect my life alone, it has a positive effect in the lives of everyone around me, both human and animals.
My creativity has a special power to heal my wounded self esteem, the more I create beautiful things with my hands, the more I feel injected with a new strength to do more. This does not satisfy my yearning, however; I have decided to engage other women who have the same challenge with me. I have decided to listen to the stories of women, who have similar stories. We came together and began to use creativity to heal our hearts and make money for ourselves and our families.
Our creativity is the beginning of a better world for women because women's economic empowerment is advantageous.
Advantages of Women's Economic Empowerment
- It creates strong women, strong children, better future and a better society for all.
- It makes a woman to be independent.
- It reduces violence against women in the communities, especially where violence is induced by frustrated husbands/poverty-stricken men.
- It helps women to become better decision-makers and boosts self esteem.
- It boosts the health status of the women because the health status of economically empowered women cannot be compared to the health of women who are facing economic challenges.
- It also reduces the risks that can affect women’s lives negatively.
- It increases the GDP of the country, because the work women do in their homes are not recognized or added t the GDP of any country.
- It also increases the visibility of the women.
- It gives women the courage to be involved in political participation.
- It enhances women’s life skills.
- It increases the self confidence of women.
- An economically empowered woman is more likely to engage/empower more women in the community.
- It reduces patriarchal power in the society.
- It bridges the gender inequality gap.
- Economically empowered women serve as role models to girls.
The only disadvantage that economic empowerment of women can cause is to challenge the notion that a woman’s office in the kitchen.
Women’s empowerment is a plus to every home and every nation. It is easy to start, it needs no physical office.
What is essential is the passion to make a positive change and the strength to make the first step. When women start, nothing can stop them because there is no stronger strength than the power of a determined woman.