Recalibrating women’s rights and female empowerment through love
Recalibrating women’s rights and female empowerment through love
When I discovered that the theme for the International Women’s Day 2019 is ‘Balance for Better’ (referring to gender balance), I was reflecting on the various ways we, as a society, might bridge the differences standing in the way of gender equality so that the world is literally a better place for all.
It’s not hard to see that there are discrepancies between the genders in terms of paid and unpaid work roles, child caring and rearing, financial situations, career advancement and the outplay of intergenerational family roles and expectations.
Certainly, in more recent times the women’s movement has delivered much in terms of securing women’s rights and has been instrumental in bringing about change for women through policy, regulations and laws, with corresponding changes influencing shifts in societal gender and social norms. Global events such as International Women’s Day also draw attention to women’s achievements. But how far has all this activity progressed true female empowerment?
While there has been considerable change in the way women’s lives outwardly appear to have improved, how much has really changed underneath and at what cost have any advancements been achieved? Most women around the world would agree that women’s sense of empowerment and self-worth continues to be constantly challenged. The reality is that globally across the lifespan, women do not have access to the same opportunities as men. Throughout the centuries, women have played an important role in society, but it has usually not been as highly valued as the contribution of men. The gap between the genders remains and serves to divide rather than unite men and women.
When we cut to the heart of things, the rates of women’s illness and disease are increasing. This is especially noticeable to me working as a counsellor within the area of women’s health during pregnancy and in the early parenting years. I have observed that women are struggling in ever increasing numbers to balance pregnancy and motherhood with a myriad of social, physical and mental health issues. Women from all sociocultural and economic backgrounds are wrestling with the realities of domestic violence, financial stress, obtaining safe housing, social isolation, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, drug and alcohol addiction, and physical health problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, extreme nausea during pregnancy, and polycystic ovarian syndrome/disorder.
After the baby is born, women often face increasing isolation as they endeavour to meet their own and others’ mothering standards and expectations and to bond and get to know their baby. In no time at all, there is pressure to participate in/return to the paid workforce during the early child bearing and rearing years, not just for financial reasons, but also to maintain some sort of profile career wise in the workforce. Women find themselves caught on a treadmill with no inkling on how to get off it. They keep pushing on with their lives by simply accepting the status quo as ‘just the way it is’, and/or through using an endless variety of ways (e.g. food, drugs, alcohol, work, mothering and taking care of everyone else etc.) to numb and distract themselves from looking closely at their lives.
If this is the reality for many women, and experience tells me it is, what is the answer?
It seems that the more things change externally in terms of achieving women’s rights and greater gender equality, the more obvious it is that we are missing the mark along the way because women’s internal landscapes are not matching the rosy façade.
It’s easy to become angry and demand that things change and to blame men for the predicament that women are in. Yet when we stop and look around without getting caught up in reaction regarding the oppression of women around the world, we can easily detect that men are also experiencing an increase in mental, social and medical problems. This picture suggests all of humanity is suffering.
We all know that quick fixes don’t work; true and lasting change requires a foundation of care and honesty with ourselves and others. If we are lost in toxic physical aggression, hopelessness, helplessness, blame, competition or seeking revenge, we simply harden ourselves and nothing positive and sustainable is achieved. When we stand back and observe the whole story there is room for greater clarity, and with that broader perspective we have a more comprehensive understanding about what is going on and what is needed to start to bring things back on track.
While contemplating what true female empowerment means and the crossover with the International Women’s Day 2019 theme of gender balance, I came across this quote which I felt captures the essence of these subjects very well and offers us a way forward:
"If a woman is great or a man is great, it is because they are expressing themselves from the heart and not because they are one or the other. Love is the expressing aspect we all respond to, not the gender that is expressing it. When they are both in their heart centre, every man and woman are perfectly equal. Outside this centre and in the glamour of their own gender, they are simply expressing gender bias, and therefore separation."Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 535
We have been so focussed on the haves and the have nots distinguishing the genders that we have lost sight of the bigger picture regarding our commonalities. Of course, there are various reasons why this has happened depending not just on our own personal situations but also on the bigger influences on our lives such as culture, religion, politics and geographical location. But ultimately, we are all human and have the same capacity to make our lives about love first and foremost.
It starts with little steps such as saying ‘no’ to the things that we catch ourselves doing just to please others that actually don’t feel right. Self-care then becomes more natural, e.g. wearing a hat to avoid sunburn, asking for help with carrying heavy items, stopping or taking a break rather than pushing on through with a task when we’re tired, resting/taking time off work if we are unwell and so forth. The gentler and more nurturing we are with ourselves, the kinder and more caring we become towards others. If we are willing to live life from this perspective, it stands to reason that gender would only feature in terms of what each gender could bring that would benefit humankind overall, and not as something to be used for controlling others and individual gain. Imagine the level of love and unity possible between men and women if this were the way we all attempted to live!
For women, a rekindling of self-love opens the pathway to female empowerment through the creation of a deep sense of self-worth and valuing of their naturally precious, nurturing and delicate characteristics that have often been locked away out of sight for years. When held and valued with a reasonable degree of consistency, such inner felt qualities of self-nurturing and self-love present a stable and safe base that invites others to open themselves up more without the usual defences. Not only does this create a sense of empowerment for the woman herself, it also sends out a very powerful sense of non-imposing warmth, power and strength that others feel and respond to – mostly by a willingness to engage in an authentic conversation or activity.
As more men are met in this way there is a slow melting of the protective barriers they have typically used. Women are confirmed for the greatness they offer humanity and the wheels of life turn increasingly faster towards true gender balance and harmony.
Women’s rights and gender equality need no longer be the battleground that it has traditionally been, but something that all can embrace as a natural confirmation of the contribution women make to the world.
It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss the above as utopia, but women have nothing to lose and everything to gain through a willingness to commit to the ‘love’ experiment where they will discover for themselves what possibilities true love holds for delivering us beyond the International Women’s Day 2019 theme of gender balance or equality, and into the realms of one humanity.