Traditionally, women were treated as slaves who had to abide by the rules of their masters. The house was their only place. They could cook, give birth, wash, and take care of their husbands and children. They had no freedom to go anywhere without the permission from their folks. They had no place in decision-making situations. This slavery-type of life deprived the society of many constructive contributions that women could give when given the freedom to do so.
Since this oppression was acting against their will, women came out to air their views, which led to the recognition of women rights and freedom. As a result, the 21st century was marked by many feminist movements that sought to restore their power in the society.
In the 21st century, women have been more empowered to take responsibility and control their lives. Increase in education access to the girl-child and priority in employment has made women more independent. Besides, it has placed them on the decision- making positions in society. This paper addresses this sensitive issue of feminism with a focus on women freedom in the society.
Feminism and Women Freedom
Feminism is a concept that upholds the rights and privileges of women in political, societal, and financial matters. Feminism upholds women empowerment as a direct path to achieving gender equality, reduced poverty, and economic growth.
Empowered women make tremendous contributions to economies, either as businesswomen, in farms as employees, or when handling care work in their homes. According to Galab and Rao, women have remained adversely affected by poverty, degradation, and exploitation in societies where there is no empowerment (15). Such discrimination means that women usually remain insecure. Despite working in low-paying jobs, they make a small percentage of citizens in senior positions.
This situation has lowered the chances of women access to assets, money, land, or loans. It inhibits their freedom to participate in the changing the economic and social policies. As Lepore confirms, such a situation puts women in positions of housewives where they have little time to pursue economic growth (24).
The independence of women is denied in any society that lacks empowerment. According to The Charters of Freedom, all people are equal and that men should grant women the desired respect, independence, participation, and positions (par.2).
Feminist campaigns fight women oppression. They seek to give women a chance to participate actively and equally in the society where they can make key decisions and or own property. When women have assets from where they can make money, they gain grounds at home and in their respective countries. They exhibit some bargaining powers when they interact with their male colleagues. Feminism fights chances of women experiencing domestic violence and/or getting HIV infections, owing to their low voice in the society.
It strengthens women at home by giving them a voice to make decisions in their families. 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. Thus, through economic empowerment from feminist campaigns, this percentage has reduced drastically. Women movements have helped in bringing up more stable families. They have fought for women’s economic strength.
The world has witnessed economically strong women such as Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II, Wangari Maathai, and Ellen Johnson taking key political and economic powers and making crucial decisions that were initially destined for men. Feminism has achieved this commendable goal by targeting women at the grassroots levels where oppression is said to dominate.
Ideas to increase the economic capability of women are becoming a major priority for many corporations in various parts of the world. However, companies usually overlook a significant contribution that can be obtained by partnering with locally-based organizations that exhibit a multi-faceted approach to empowering women.
Women have been declared the most unused resource in the world. Studies that are being done have supported the notion that financial intensification of women can substantially increase their efficiency, lead to the decline of worker conflicts, and heighten the creation of the customer bazaar (Matsheza, Timilsina, and Arutyunova 2).
A research that was conducted in 2012 by A Booz & Company projected that increasing the participation of women in the job market to the ranks of men can lead to a GDP rise of 34 percent in various countries (Matsheza, Timilsina, and Arutyunova 3). The UNFAO has estimated that ensuring the availability of materials such as manure and farm paraphernalia can boost their output from twenty to thirty percent and in return amplify rural yields in the upcoming economies from 2.5 to 4 percent (Matsheza, Timilsina, and Arutyunova 4).
Studies that have been done on this issue have motivated an increasing number of companies to make programs that are meant to empower women economically. From these initiatives, business heads have targeted at increasing the superiority of their logistics networks, promote their admission to aptitude, and boost the efficiency of their women recruits, thanks to feminist campaigns.
Societies, where women have been involved in the labor force, have seen a significant decrease in poverty rates. This situation is evident in developed countries such as the US where women have been well represented in major sectors of the economy. Economic empowerment is a significant move to freeing women from dependence and making them participate equally in economies.
Enhancing the economic role of females has been the goal of many women movements, which have come out to fight poverty and/or uphold women health and education while at the same time seeking to see women achieve other wide development targets. The current initiatives by companies to promote women capacity through schemes that arm them with cleverness, guidance, connections, right of entry to souks, and monetary benefits have in no doubt had an impact in many parts of the world.
There is an increasing awareness among development experts concerning the necessity of women to join empowerment programs that cover women independence in a more integrated way. According to Healy, Kirton, and Noon, to overcome gender inequality, isolated programs should be ignored in favor of comprehensive approaches that entail multiple sectors and stakeholders (10).
These authors suggest an integrated approach to solving human rights issues that inhibit women from reaching their full capability as economic agents. Such an approach advocates not only women access to equal and safe employment but also a voice in the society and legislative areas.
Feminist insights have prompted leaders and the male-dominated societies to consider how they can use the available resources to broaden women opportunities. If there is a goal to enable positive change in women lives, economic empowerment should not be the only focus.
Instead, there should be approaches that consider other aspects of women lives such as social, cultural, political, and the legal alliances to realize gender equality. One way to achieve gender parity is to work with women-led nongovernmental organizations that have a purpose to empower women and/or increase their rights on many fronts.
Women and Technology
When women are empowered with skills in technology, economic benefits can follow. Having the right technological skills has made the 21st century women more competitive in the employment market. They have secured crucial political and business positions just like men. Software development skills like web designing and programming have helped women to be self-employed.
As a result, the 21st century women have gained their independence and freedom from the male-dominated employment field. This achievement can only be attributed to feminists such as Margaret Fuller, Charlotte Perkins, and Laurence Housman among others. With such skills, women such as Oprah Winfrey have created companies and provided employment in developing countries.
Technological innovation has changed the lives of women and families all over the world. Some technologies such as digital and video cameras have turned women into professional fashion photographers (Moran 31). Such initiatives have earned them a living. Video cameras in cell phones have also been used to highlight social injustices against women such as rape cases in war-prone areas.
Such shareable videos have changed the way people look at conflicts and women rights issues around the world. Any gender-based violence today can be addressed within a short time, thanks to technology-savvy feminists who have developed platforms through which any gender issue can be tackled (Padawa 2).
Better and sustainable cooking technology has promoted cleaner air. It has decreased smoke-related health conditions that characterized many traditional women whose main place was the kitchen. The change in the way liberated women prepare meals has slowly empowered to participate even in the industrial sector. Women can now apply technology to make well-designed cooking rocket stoves. The stove provides heating and cooking solutions in developing countries.
Women movements have helped a lot in distributing such cooking equipment in Central America, Africa, Mexico, and Philippines. Their goal is to improve the health of 2 to 3billion people, 90 percent being women, who make their food using open biomass fires. Such an initiative has led to a reduction in the production of greenhouse gasses, which have been counterproductive to the environment.
Women and Education
The use of computers in online learning has enabled women to take college education from their homes. Women who have family constraints can now access video lectures and coursework from their homes without being physically in classrooms. This opportunity has given women a chance to advance their education even with family responsibility at hand.
Educationally empowered women who dominate the 21st century world have impacted social change in society by supporting not only their families and countries, but also the world at large. A public-private plan between medical institutions in the US and the African Medical and Research Foundation evidences how online teaching has improved women lives. The initiative managed to certify over 20,000 nurses by 2011 to curb the huge shortage of health professionals to tackle the challenge of HIV and malaria.
The adoption of mobile digital banking that uses inexpensive headphones as bank centers is a significant development for women who run household business enterprises in developing countries. Such initiatives for making small savings have enabled women in small businesses to secure loans, which they have used to develop themselves, their countries, and their families. Financially empowered women enjoy independence and freedom since they can make choices on what to do for their families and countries (Thomlinson 454).
They possess more bargaining powers. Through peer-to-peer funding networks, websites such as the Kiva microfinance databases have emerged to link a willing group of over 600,000 online lenders with small enterprise people in over 52 countries, thanks to the founders Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery whose main objective has been to free women from depending on men for their financial needs.
Over 83 percent of Kiva business people are women who have been way more active than men in bringing families and communities out of poverty.
A high percentage of women who are not in the formal employment depend on farming for their income and for feeding their families (10). Feminist movements such as the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) have established proper farming practices where women are provided with farming machinery to boost their income. Use of genetically modified seeds, adoption of better irrigation practices, and soil treatment practices have enhanced food production in the developing nations in the last half-century.
Instead of just growing food for subsistence, such initiatives have enabled women farmers to sell a small surplus of their harvest. With the additional money, they have educated their girl-children instead of forcing them into arranged early marriages that are meant to assist parents in reducing the cost of housing and schooling of their children.
Women movements have also brought innovative ideas in agricultural machinery such as micro-irrigation, use of water bags, treadle pumps, and drip irrigation hoses to help women in farming to boost their harvest.
One modern and common approach to the empowerment of women is through self-empowerment using local initiatives, which are controlled either by charity or voluntary local organizations. Such initiatives that are mostly founded in the form of groups are not only effective in providing the startup support, advice, and management, but also providing technological skills and new tools while at the same time providing a market for goods that have been acquired.
Organizations that are established with an aim of attaining the needs of local women often work well when they begin as small cooperatives, which can turn women’s labor into gainful employment. Such businesses have been more effective, especially where the women have gained control of finances and the daily operations of the cooperatives.
This plan has offered a learning opportunity to women who run the initiatives. Hence, feminism has instilled a culture of high self-esteem and reliance among women. Some of the factors that have contributed to the success and growth of feminism include enlightenment and governments’ collaboration with women campaigns to restore their (women) lost dignity and freedom.
In conclusion, women can only attain independence when they are empowered. Women’s empowerment on various sectors has been important in the 21st century as a way of freeing them from social injustices. Traditionally, women were only regarded as machines for giving birth and taking care of the family.
They suffered silently because they were not aware of their rights. Feminist movements were a turning point where women could be liberated from this slavery. Currently, women have assumed powers that were previously a reserve for men. They have attained high-level education that has placed them in positions where they can make key familial, political, and even economic decisions.
Galab, Sabiba, and Chandrasekhara Rao. “Women’s self-help groups, poverty reduction in self-empowerment.” Economic and Political Weekly, 22 March 2003: 1274. Print.
Healy, Geraldine, Gill Kirton, and Mike Noon. Equality, inequalities, and diversity: modern challenges and solutions. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.
Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York, NY: Knopf Publishers, 2014. Print.
Matsheza, Phil, Anga Timilsina, and Aida Arutyunova. Seeing Beyond The State: Grassroots Women’s Perspectives On Corruption And Anti-Corruption. New York, NY: UNDP, 2012. Print.
Moran, Caitlin. How to be a Woman. New York, NY: Ebury Press, 2011. Print.
Padawa, Ruth. “Why Women Become Men at Wellesley.” NYT 15 Oct. 2014: 3. Print.
The Charters of Freedom. The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription, 1776. Web.
Thomlinson, Natalie. “The Color of Feminism: White Feminists and Race in the Women’s Liberation Movement.” History 97.327(2012): 453-475. Print.