Hello! I think the person at your school was right to finish the question with a “to you”. Here’s why; “female empowerment” as a term refers to the improvement of women’s social, economical, political and educational status in order to achieve a more just and equal state of affairs. That is, to achieve equality across groups of persons (namely genders) by improving the status of those currently suffering from limitation, inequality and oppression. Which is a simple enough definition, but produces wildly varied practices when applied to particular cases.
Therefore my female empowerment as a young, educated Northern European will, not in theory but all the more in practice, differ radically from that of an individual in another place, time and social status. The challenges that obstruct me and my peers from enjoying complete equality in our society will be defined by the status we, as a group, enjoy within our social setting, and likewise the methods of adjusting the imbalance of power must be ones that address precisely our issues. Meaning that, although the goal of female empowerment across the globe is one and the same (as defined ebove), the methods of achieving that goal will vary; thus making it much more sensible to ask “what must happen in this society in order for it to be more just and equal” than search for policies that could be uniformly implemented without consideration of the particulars of the situation.
(This will be the last paragraph I swear) As for giving my answer as a young, educated Northern European, then, it is probably illuminating (or maybe just confusing) to start off by saying that I find the concept of “female empowerment” as a synonym for gender equality somewhat unfamiliar. It’s likely that there isn’t enough space here to go into all the hypotheses as to why that is, the risk of misunderstanding is enormous but allow me to give it a go: What I take to be the barriers of equality in the social context I live in will not be fully overcome by “elevating” women to enjoy equal educational, political and economical status with men, ensured by fair legislation - because we already do, and yet social inequality sits as deep as ever. Namely in the form of rigid, outdated and oppressing social roles and gender norms. It is these that, in order to achieve genuine equality in all fields of life whether private or public, must be overcome on a wide scale. It must be understood that an individual’s choices, opportunities, range of socially acceptable behaviours and life plans, etc. etc, can not be limited or defined by the individual’s gender, whatever that gender is. Our challenges are no longer problems of an unjust legislation (not to say there isn’t work to be done on that field too, but we’re comparably well off) but of deeply rooted, rigid conceptions of what it means to be a member of a particular social group.Therefore, to me equality of genders (female empowerment) means dismantling those social roles by consciously, sometimes loudly, questioning and addressing the situations where they appear in people’s behaviour, not excluding my own; encouranging others to also engage in active dialogue on the matter - along with a refusal to submit to any such role which I experience as limiting, not in line with my experienced identity, or detrimental to the quality of my life.
(I’m sorry, really for the three-paragraph polemic but I’m not finding very good words today somehow?) xx
Oh boy do I! (I do, a lot)
Walking streets alone and eating dinner at tables for one — maybe with a book, maybe not — you’re left alone for hours, days on end with nothing but your own thoughts. You start talking to yourself, asking yourself questions and answering them, and taking in the day’s activities with a slowness and an appreciation that you’ve never before even attempted. Even just going to the grocery store — when in an exciting new place, when all by yourself, when in a new language — is a thrilling activity. And having to start from zero and rebuild everything, having to re-learn how to live and carry out every day activities like a child, fundamentally alters you. Yes, the country and its people will have their own effect on who you are and what you think, but few things are more profound than just starting over with the basics and relying on yourself to build a life again. I have yet to meet a person who I didn’t find calmed by the experience. There is a certain amount of comfort and confidence that you gain with yourself when you go to this new place and start all over again, and a knowledge that — come what may in the rest of your life — you were capable of taking that leap and landing softly at least once.