What is women empowerment and why do women need to be empowered? Is an empowered woman an asset or a threat?
I had known June since high school. We ended up in the same campus undertaking the same course and that is when our friendship grew deep. By the time we graduated from campus, we were like sisters.
June had always been a jovial girl. She loved life. A twinkle comes to my eyes when I remember how much fun we had together as students. We loved watching movies and site seeing and we definitely enjoyed our youth. I got married a few months after graduation.
June was not in a serious relationship by that time. After I got married, there was a period of around 3 years when we sort of drifted apart as I was settling down into family life. Then we did some catching up and gradually the friendships was restored.
We did keep in touch and met once in a while but our meetings were far apart. She had a good job with an international organization and she seemed to be living the life.
June’s path to marriage was not as straightforward as mine; go to the parents for introductions, negotiations, church wedding. Hers took on a different route. I was shocked at how fast things moved for my friend June.
We met after a period of around 6 months of not meeting and June broke the news to me that she was pregnant! She had not introduced me to anyone as a serious boyfriend so definitely it was a big surprise. That was not all; she dropped the bombshell; she and Andrew were already living together in a come-we-stay relationship….
This was happening too fast and I asked quite a few questions because I was concerned whether they had rushed things. She seemed really excited about her new found love, even though none had met the other’s family yet.
June gradually went out of circulation and we rarely met. We could meet once or twice a year and she was always in a hurry. She gradually become a different June from the one I had known for years.
She had always worn flashy clothes but her dressing became really plain. The beautiful outfits I associated with her were no more. Gone too was eye catching hair styles. Every time we met, her long hair was held in a pony tail, which was so unlike her.
June was forever in a hurry to attend a prayer meeting or a fellowship somewhere. I had never known her to be overly religious. She also became so closed up and was no longer the happy girl I used to know.
I was still young and inexperienced myself and I remember thinking to myself how much my friend had changed but I never raised the issue with her.
I remember one day when she called me and said that we needed to meet and it was urgent. We met in Nairobi as agreed. We bought some snacks at the supermarket and went to sit at a park. June started talking as soon as we sat down on the well trimmed grass.
June was living beyond her means because apparently, her husband came from a dysfunctional family. Her mother-in-law was widowed early and raised 5 kids all on her own; she never remarried. Growing up had been a struggle for Andrew and his siblings and sometimes they would be bailed out by relatives.
June’s husband was the first born and the only male child in the family. His mother controlled him, made unrealistic demands on him endlessly. June’s family was forever in financial crisis, even though both her husband and herself had good jobs.
There was no communication in the marriage, no planning, no budgeting. June was like a fire fighter in the home; auctioneers would arrive at the door with an auction notice; she would run around, raise money and pay off the debts. Someone would arrive at the gate to disconnect power or water because of non payment of bills and she would deal with the crisis.
Children would be sent home for non payment of school fees and she would pay the balances. She had 3 children in primary school and she felt like she could not take it one more day. She wanted to file for divorce.
I do meet with a lot of resistance when I talk about women empowerment, and more so from the men. I have asked a number of men why they view women empowerment in a negative light and the answer is always something to do with an empowered woman becoming proud and not submissive.
In Kenya, half the population lives in abject poverty, cannot afford three square meals a day for their families.
Women and girls make up half the world’s population and 70% of the 1 billion poorest people are female. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. On average, women earn half of what men earn.
Is empowering women to bring them at par with their male counterparts in terms of earnings a positive or negative thing? Do families stand to gain if every member of the family is compensated fairly for their labour?
Do families stand to benefit if elderly, widowed mothers were empowered such that they became financially independent even in their old age instead of being dependent on others mainly their adult children?
Do families stand to benefit from that state of affairs? Do communities and nations stand to benefit? Can empowering women and girls bring down global poverty?
My mother was empowered. She worked as a teacher for 37 years, until she retired. She also had multiple streams of income, thanks to her side businesses. Today, she is in her 80s and widowed. She is financially ok.
She is not a burden to us, her adult children. She can pay her bills and run her home independently. More about my mother on this Facebook note: https://web.facebook.com/notes/susan-catherine-keter/my-mothers-secret/10152074713850618?hc_ref=SEARCH
This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter; life coach, personal development mentor, freelancer and blogger
Financial Independence Africa