Women’s Empowerment Series: Global agendas & local realities

Women and girls are the world’s largest minority, a minority that continues to face wide-ranging inequality and discrimination in work, politics, and family life. This discrimination is often fostered by existing social and cultural norms that require reassessment. This continued inequality remains a poignant and looming moral imperative for awareness and change.

Women living in developed nations continue to face a host of gendered and sometimes “transparent” barriers in life such as “the glass ceiling” in business and additional inequalities of equal pay, political representation, and reproductive health. These limitations are “transparent” because they allude to the social norms, structures, and mindsets that have fostered gender inequity, but not identifiable laws or policies necessarily. As a result for women in many developed countries, the possibility for success has been equalized – which was not always the case – yet women are still disadvantaged by cultural attitudes and prejudices. This has created transparent, but strong blockages that have remained generally unnoticed by large segments of society, business leadership, and political representation. In these nations, patriarchal societies have eroded the value of equality, limited economic growth, and tainted their image as promoters of women’s empowerment more globally.

Further, the gendered inequalities found in developed nations are combined with severely expanded and more apparent barriers for women in poorer nations. The immediate issues facing women more globally and transnationally include sex trafficking, lack of economic opportunity, and a heightened rate of domestic abuse, childhood pregnancy, fewer educational opportunities, and many other hardships. Patriarchal societies the world over demonstrates the lingering structural blockages for women, blockages that call upon each one of us to counteract the oppressive prevailing realities for women.

Responding to this systemic issue, an army of dynamic and inspiring solutions is progressing globally. Human rights advocates are beginning to use the power of the media and international institutions to achieve common goals by pooling their resources. Economic empowerment through micro-loans provided by organizations like Kiva is an example. Other solutions include providing vocational training for women, childhood education for girls, and legal representation and healthcare options for women of lower socio-economic status.

In developed nations, some programs have pioneered the use of social media, education, and networking to harness the social capital of empowered men and women to act for the benefit of those more vulnerable. In early March 2012, Newsweek and The Daily Beast hosted the “Women in the World Summit” in New York City attracting women’s rights advocates such as Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, among many others. From all corners of the globe, these advocates appeared on one stage, hand-in-hand with corporate donors and the media, to raise awareness and motivate actions on behalf of women’s equality. Contributors from le Globaliste attended both the 2012 and 2013 Women in the World Conferences and reported on the focus, purpose, and outcomes of the initiative — to be published in a future installment of this series.

Another event of similar nature was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan in late March 2012. The symposium titled: “Empowering Women in the Global Community” brought together academics, business professionals, and some of metro-Detroit’s foremost gender equality leaders and advocates. Nine panels were formed to focus on specific aspects of the broad topic of global women’s empowerment. Some of the speakers at the Oakland Symposium contributed to le Globaliste’s series on women’s empowerment. Additional articles have been also solicited from other students and practitioners to represent more diverse experiences and perspectives on the topic. We also wish to present this series as an opportunity for le Globaliste readers to contribute as a guest author by writing an article on women’s empowerment from their own perspective, experience, or research.

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