Women don’t need to be “empowered”. Women ARE powerful. It’s fear that makes people try to tame them, and their own beliefs that restrain them. When a woman breaks free from societal constraints and defines her own life, she empowers herself and the ones around her. It starts within, with a free mindset.
Once a Nepali woman told me her biggest dream was to go out and have a stroll with me and my Nepali male friend outside, without being looked upon (married women aren’t supposed to go out on their own)…I felt sad and outraged at the same time. For days, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why do we impose this on ourselves? What if she didn’t care about how people look? Maybe then other women would follow? What if it all started in our minds before anything else?
In my country, women can make their own choices, but we are still fighting other battles around pay equality, gender bias and societal expectations. I could feel her pain and realised we were not that different. So many of us are disempowered by society and our own mindset. We are not victims of men’s ignorance and misogyny, we have allowed it to happen. So many of us keep valuing our beauty through others’ eyes, or accepting what others think of us because they know better. Only when we realise that we are part of the problem, and hence the solution, and take our responsibilities as members of the society, can we make the lasting changes we want.
We can inspire our daughters to be strong physically and emotionally. We can teach them about birth control, safe sex practices and how to say “no”. We can tell them not to worry about fitting into glass slippers and instead focus on shattering glass ceilings. We can advocate for girls’ education and gender wage equality. We can learn self-defense, how to shoot a gun and stand up for other women who need our help. We can cook barefoot in the kitchen and earn a six-figure salary. We can contribute our valuable skills only in organisations that practice gender equity, and vote only for those who protect womens’ rights. We can ride bikes, climb mountains, run marathons, give birth, and be the leaders we wish we had.
We should keep doing all of these things because we can and we never give up. But most importantly, we need to overcome our own self-limiting beliefs and avoid replicating men’s shortcomings. Women could stop allowing other women to act against their own well-being. We could lift each other up, instead of copying male’s competitive characteristics. We need to reconnect, recognise and leverage on our womanhood superpowers. We could learn from each other to multiply the impact of our successes.