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What can the average woman do to empower other women?

I have often had conversations with my friends about empowering women, and one of the topics that always comes up is the feeling of helplessness. Most women are not rich and famous, and it is sometimes difficult to see how we as individuals can help with enormous problems such as war, poverty, hunger, maternal mortality, human rights, and human trafficking.
How can one woman make a difference?

1) Volunteer! Time = money

There are many organizations that desperately require volunteers, and there are many opportunities to directly help women. Are you good at English or other languages? Teach a class for immigrant women, or translate documents for an NGO or charity. Do you like children? Volunteer to read at your local school, assist with teaching, or coach a children's sports team. Do you have experience with babies? Volunteer to help a new mother with advice, childcare and cleaning. Do you relate well to the elderly? Visit and talk with elderly at a nursing home or hospital. Do you have a lot of friends? Host a fundraising party for your favourite women's charity, and ask guests to donate. Are you a good gardener? Start a community garden in your area with vegetables and fruit, get other volunteers to assist, and donate the produce to needy families.
These are just some suggestions, but volunteering has a direct impact on women's lives, and is also a fulfilling experience!

2) Communicate!

Women are naturally good communicators, and enjoy discussions...so talk about meaningful topics. I try to slip a 'social cause' or facts on women's causes into every conversation that I have, wherever I am. I have chatted at the bus stop, with the cashier at the grocery store, at the doctor's office...many people are unaware of the crises facing the world's women, and more than one person has thanked me, and gone on to represent the cause.

3) Buy fair trade and ethically sourced products!

When we make our purchases for ourselves or our families, we should be asking retailers where and how the products were made. Millions of women around the world work in agricultural work, factories or shops that exploit the workers, and treat them horrendously. Look for fair trade symbols on items such as coffee, tea or grains. Demand fair trade products, or find alternative products that are ethically produced. If enough women shift their buying preferences, companies will have to change their policies. (I try to purchase fair trade clothing especially, but if I cannot afford it, I will buy second-hand clothes instead.) Donate gently used items to a women's shelter or local organization that assists low-income women. Share children's toys and equipment with a toy library among a co-op of women, instead of buying multiples of the same toys.

4) Teach your children about equality!

Teach your children that we live on a planet that is shared by billions of people of all different colours, religions, races, cultures and beliefs. Use public libraries, the Internet, maps and books to teach them that the world is a big place, but that we share it! Teach your girls that they can do anything, and teach your boys that it is all right to be nurturing. A mother is the first person that any child learns from, and there is no more important lesson to teach children than equality for all.

5) Get political!

Run for your local school councils, town councils, and for other political offices. Women are effective and efficient in leadership. Encourage female candidates by helping with their campaigns, and make sure that every person you know votes. We need women's voices at the highest levels all the way down to grassroot projects. Participate in rallies, marches and protests, and get your friends out with you. Write the leadership of your country, region, and community so that your voice is being heard.

6) Write your local newspapers, television and radio stations, and other media sites!

If there is a story that touches upon women or women's rights, write your views in a letter to the editor. Be loud in your praise of advances for women, and condemnatory of failures for women's rights. Write regular editorials, and be noticed! Start a local radio or television show that focuses on women and women's stories. Encourage women to make their own magazines, blogs and newspapers.

7) Make art, music, dance, poetry or writing!

The arts are all ways of telling our stories, and everyone needs to hear them! Join or start a women's storytelling group, art group, dance group, band or choir. Record your performances, and share them widely with your networks. Interview elders in your community, and ask if women's lives have changed since they were younger. Ask children to paint, draw and create images of their favourite women and heroines. Write a play that talks about important issues for women and girls and present it at your local community centre or high school.

8) Mentoring!

Are you a professional in your field of expertise? Do you have unique or job-specific work skills? Mentor a younger woman, and teach her what she will need to know for a career in your industry. Help her get the connections and references that will result in her being able to succeed. Many mentors even simply offer advice when asked...it is a very simple and effective way to ensure a continued presence of strong, educated women in your community.

These are all suggestions, and there are many other ways of making an impact. Don't feel alone and helpless, because you are not! We are women - 52% of the world's population, and we deserve to be heard.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/08/26/magazine/20090826-a-womens...

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Comments

NyamburaFoley's picture

Well said!

I think any woman who has doubts about empowering other women should read this and apply it in their own communities.

olutosin's picture

EDUCATION

Thanks darling for educating us here....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Sarvina's picture

Thanks!

Hi Pax,

Thanks so much for sharing it to us! It's so meaningful and full of encouragement to urge us to stay with the world, not alone. It inspires me how to stand and give voice to the world so I feel that I am not alone. Wao....so wonderul!!!

With all my loves,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Lilith784's picture

Love the list!

Thank you for compiling this inspiring list of possibilities! It's great to see all these different approaches woven together in the context of the purpose of empowering women. I will share this in my personal community as well.
Andrea

PaxFeminina's picture

Thank you!

Thank you to each of you - Nyambura, Olutosin, Sarvina, and Andrea!

I am glad that you enjoyed my ideas, and I would love to hear any of your own that I neglected to mention! I think one of women's universal strengths is that we know how to shoulder a burden - we know that progress with children or families isn't easy, yet we still persevere. Hopefully, we will soon be able to make progress with our global family :)

Blessed be!

Pax Feminina

blessed be,
Pax Feminina

Peace! Paix! Paz! Shalom! Salaam! Friede! Mir! Heiwa! Aman Malay! Ashtee! Damai!
Ets'a'an Olal! Hau! Iri'ni! K'é! Maluhia! Nabad-Da! Olakamigenoka! Pingan! Shanti! Uxolo!

CanNurse's picture

Wonderful!

This is a wonderful piece that can not only be an inspiration for women, but can be shared with others in the community! It is from each other that we gain strength, knowledge, & support - all essential in making our worlds better for women and children. The only other thing I might add to the list, which would result from these activities on it's own - but can also be a separate activity - is to Network. Network with women's groups, community groups, parents groups. Women interconnect with one another through many woven connections, and we can take advantage of those groups & involvements to learn & expand our knowledge & actions. Connect the leader of the breast-feeding group to the Women's Health Education initiaive, for example. Connect the student who is interested in Women & the environment to the local Community Garden group. These are just wee examples, but Networking can be so empowering, both for ourselves & for others we might be able to inter-connect.
And I love your last bit, added in the comment, that we have the amazing strength to keep going & to persevere - despite the odds. And with this, we also need to learn to take care of ourselves - one of our great failings. And women can help empower other women by helping to sometimes "give permission" to each other to rest, to regenerate, to take some time just to be.
Thank you, Pax!

Leelee's picture

Thank you for this

Thank you for this information ... I was at Women Deliver 2010 in Washington DC and I remember Ashley Judd saying that one of the main problems with women is that we are always the first to cry each other down ... I mean think about it, how many times in a professional situation do you tell another female colleague that you look up to them r the work they are doing? We "look up to" celebrities, and pop culture icons - but the person working in the next cubicle we "hate" because the boss gave them a trip or training session that you wanted ... I think it first starts with us "empowering" the female that challenges us the most that we tend to "hate" the most - give them a kind word, a "congratulatory note" - and see how much better that feels!

'Harlem: A Dream Deferred' - Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Amei's picture

This is a great list

I would like to add LISTEN. I know listening is embedded in you description. I wanted listening to be active. I was never heard :) Now I am making an effort and I know how important listening is. I know how I it feels to be neglected and alienated. This is just great :-)

Hey Leelee, It takes a lot of courage to be happy for another person’s “good opportunity” when we too equally deserve it. It is an extremely competitive world and the reality is if someone won the other will loose – until we start to think, if someone wins- we also have won in the larger scheme in the world. We have to learn to be content with ourselves and express happiness for other people’s success. There is hope for kindness towards our colleagues even with the ongoing competition. We can start to make it happen.

Thanks Pax. I feel connected and far from alone :-) Thanks

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