Women overcoming poverty–while engaging men as allies

Can women’s empowerment be measured? Is it obvious when a woman is empowered?

Empowered women

Widow working with finances

A woman empowered simply has more power. And power is the capacity, opportunity, and freedom to act, when the action is to achieve something she herself values and wants to accomplish.

To have more power, it need not be taken from another. She must and can create it.
As organizers, our challenge is to help village women create power.  We all collaborate in the process. It is important for the men to see that women’s power does not decrease their own but is more power for all, and a benefit to all.
Patriarchy is not an abstraction.  Its behaviors and practices exist in a concrete and specific environment. Mesha Singolyo, Lead Organizer for the International Collaborative, understands this. She does not lead the women into an abstract fight against the idea of patriarchy.

A Battle Against Poverty

Maasai women herders

MPWO members discussing the herd

Instead, the battle is really against poverty.  When women are not crippled by poverty they make their own decisions and are respected for them. Patriarchy drifts to the background.

The Village Leaders would like to help widows and other women but don’t have the resources. We invite them to share in the planning for the use of the resources we bring. They are appreciative of this opportunity.
The Leaders know the people of their village and are able to locate women who are not only especially in need because of their widowhood, but have shown initiative already in strengthening their finances.
There are village men who are expert in livestock management, and some enthusiastically form advisory groups for the women. They accompany the women to the market when buying and selling.
Mesha describes it clearly.” The men go with the women to the market to sell the cows.  It is the women who leave with the money in their pockets. They are the ones who will decide how to use the money to keep the poverty-ending cycle going, sidelining patriarchy.”