(This is an article which I wrote to answer the question of the meaning of empowerment for women)
Where do I feel more empowered, in the country of birth or country of residence?
I feel more empowered in the place of residency. I had the opportunity to grow professionally and on my personality level. I am more independent and I have a variety of choices and options. There is no street harassment, there is special places for women in transportation but not totally separated and women are free to stand any where they want in a metro or bus. I was able to find a fulfilling job that enabled me to achieve an economic and personal autonomy, that enabled me to help my family, and that charged my experience.
I enjoyed a level of education empowerment despite the boundaries before many women in Syria, I wanted to do what I believed in and had the strength to pursuit my conviction, however, this ability of making a free choice was always confronted with attempts to enforce choices from society and family. Women's career choices usually limited in Syria, especially in conservative communities. But women have to be a housewife and must have one or two kids before the age of 30 or the society would look at her with an inferior attitude. Divorced young women are always looked at in a doubtful way, probably a thought like "she must be watched because she is not shy anymore." The streets and public places where infested with street harassment of all kinds. Women's salaries were less than men's and opportunities for promotion or a raise usually go to men. Women rights were not protected by the government nor law, women empowerment was a subject rarely tackled and the government wanted to sedate society by turning all kinds of traditions in a male dominant society, even the negative ones, into family laws. e.x: honor crimes law, this is when men can get a why with a murder of a woman if this was for protecting honor after a woman had an affair.
In my country, women are usually raised on fear, they are molded in a certain shape and role that all women expected to play. Most of the time, women take wrong choices out of fear and hesitation. Pain, and even death haunts many. Women are supposed to feel insecure all the time and the only thing that will make them feel safe and secure is the existence of a man in their lives (father, husband, brother, uncle), otherwise a woman will be just a prey.
In the place I live in currently, I have a since of autonomy, because it is a cosmopolitan place, the pressure of society is less than the pressure used to be on me when I was in Syria. There is an opportunity for growth and filling higher positions. I am more confident and my inner strength is boosted by the options allowed here. The laws are designed to protect everyone and held others the responsibility for their actions because there are people from all around the world with different traditions, cultures and viewpoints regarding women, and discipline must maintained. This was very comfortable to me.
What is empowerment to me?
It is self-fulfillment. A feeling of inner sufficiency.The comfort and self-confidence to say a firm NO. The ability to make decisions and choose freely the desired path without pressure from society or family. My body is my choice, I don't like to be told that I must have babies since I am above 30. Empowerment is mainly achieved by education and raising awareness. For me, it is the energy from inside that connects the strong points together in a woman and erase hesitation and fear.
Education, education, education. This is an important key to support women's knowledge about her rights, their bodies, their thoughts and their world.
Economic empowerment is one important aspect for solidifying the position of women. I wrote a long article about this issue before and I will take a paragraph from it: World Bank has shown that increasing women's access to quality education, good jobs, and other resources contributes to inclusive growth, sustainable development, and long-term prosperity. Limited access to land, prosperity, housing, credit, technology, markets and extension services have undermined women's livelihood and restricted their ability to benefit from growth they help to generate. It seems clear that women's economic empowerment in society stands side by side with education. Women's economic empowerment will reduce poverty and support economic growth in a society.