Empowering Women for Sustainability of Nations – “Great Change takes Great Courage”

In anticipation of International Women’s Day, we’ve handed the Green Impact blog over to Nafeela in the Economics Green Impact team, who reminds us that sustainability means equality. If you or your team would like to contribute to the Green Impact blog, contact greenimpact@sheffield.ac.uk.

We, 21st century women, are lucky that we don’t live in a world of limited career choices like our mothers and grandmothers did. We are lucky that we grew up in a world where we have our basic civil rights but amazingly we are also in the era where other women don’t have any. We still encounter a problem and that problem is real – most women don’t make it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world.

Women contribute to almost 50% of the world population. A large number of women around the world are still unemployed and due to this unequal opportunity for women at the workplace the world economy is suffering. Men attribute the success to themselves whereas women systematically underestimate their own abilities and attribute their success to external factors which leads to the world having fewer women leaders.

Empowering the nation can only be achieved by implementing gender equality, which is possible only by educating young girls and ending all forms of discrimination against women. This is the integral part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Empowerment should emerge within each one of us by thought, conviction and action, following the path of great change, great courage in those who see a need for change and are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Malala Yousafzai is a girl with great courage. ‘If we want education for girls we should be united. We should not wait, we should do it now,’ she said. True to her words she rose in prominence as her passion and perception towards empowering women began to touch the minds of people around her and across the globe after a tragic incident when a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head and neck. Her efforts towards girls’ education and empowerment laid a strong ground work of courage among women. She is a strong example of “women empowering women”.

Another woman, Sheryl Sandburg, gave a talk on “Why we have too few women leaders”. She made a strong point that for the world to be sustainable it must concentrate on the following:

What are the messages we need to tell ourselves? Tell to the women who work with and for us? Our daughters?

“I want my daughter to have the choice to not just succeed, but to be liked for her accomplishments.

“Believe in yourself and negotiate for yourself. Own your own success.”

Female empowerment is a process. Empowering women for improving sustainability can be achieved when the world adopts the following four-step process:

  • The nature of the problem should be identified. The prevailing gender inequality or gender gap where the women are considered to be at a disadvantage should be recognized as important. This is possible only by consulting women about their needs and concerns.
  • A safe, just and enabling environment must be created through targeted policies and mainstreaming.
  • In order to contribute to sustainable development, women need to be agents of change and therefore building their skills and capacities is crucial.
  • Women at all levels of activities have to be involved in the decision making process. Women’s full and equal participation is essential.

Yet women continue to be underrepresented in decision making wherever we look. This can be overcome by building women’s capacity and removing the obstacles to women’s full involvement and participation in sustainable development.

This is one side of the coin of women’s empowerment. The other side is to target women directly to enable them to get more involved. Training programmes which are tailored to the needs of women are an obvious tool.

All of these could be possible only when each one of us, man or woman, takes small but consistent steps towards empowerment. It will make the world a better place and contribute toward the sustainable development of nations. Lastly I want to conclude this post with the wise words of Swami Vivekananda: “There is no chance for welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved, it is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing”.

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