A Brief History of the Global Women’s Empowerment Movement

International Women's Day

On the 8th of March, feminists around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a day meant to celebrate the many significant past and present achievements and contributions of great women - from mothers to female leaders, laborers, and more - as well as “to raise awareness about women’s equality, lobby for accelerated gender parity, and fundraise for female-focused charities” (the International Women’s Day online portal).

It is no secret that girls and women have always faced challenges, such as being underrepresented in leadership and decision-making roles, receiving unequal pay for equal work, being undermined in workplaces and through societal commentaries, being unfairly scrutinized, and facing legal and other barriers around opportunities.

International Women’s Day is part of the wider call for women’s empowerment which addresses these issues. It is a movement intended to stand up against patriarchal systems and fight for a woman’s fundamental right to equality and opportunity. Every year since 1996, the day has been used to campaign for a specific cause in relation to women’s empowerment. For instance, in 2011, the theme was Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women. This year, the campaign theme is ChoosetoChallenge, which calls on us to critically engage on how our own thoughts and actions can promote gender equality. girls rule written on socks by Pexels Photo by CoWomen from Pexels So, when did the women’s empowerment movement gain traction?

It is important to note that women’s empowerment is a global phenomenon which originated from the contributions of strong women and supporters from all around the world.

As such, women’s empowerment as a concept was first given international visibility at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, when two chapters included in the action plan that came out of the conference explicitly addressed the promotion of equality between sexes and the lack of women’s power around the world. The chapters examined issues such as education, employment, sexual violence, reproductive health, and more.

In 1995 the United Nations Conference on Women took place in Beijing, marking the entry of the term "empowerment" into UN discourse on women. The action plan adopted at the conference asserted that “women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in the decision-making process and access to power are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development, and peace.” (United Nations,1995).

By the end of the ’90s, women’s empowerment and its principles gained prominence and acknowledgement across nearly all international organizations' platforms. For instance, the promotion of gender equality and empowering women is part of both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals. Many national governments also prioritize women empowerment and gender equality in ways they previously had not.

the Photo by Lindsey LaMont from Unsplash There have also been rising numbers of NGOs established to push specifically for the advancement and sustainability of women’s empowerment according to one or all of the 7 principles listed below:

  1. Create high-level corporate leadership for women.

  2. Treat women fairly at work.

  3. Ensure the health, wellbeing, and safety of female workers,

  4. Promote education, training, and professional development for women.

  5. Implement marketing practices and enterprise development that empower women.

  6. Champion equality through community initiatives and advocacy

  7. Measure and report publicly on progress related to gender equality.

Women still face a plethora of challenges today, but what the women’s empowerment movement aims to do is to accelerate solutions to these problems by advocating and pushing for the incorporation of the above principles into the fabric of societies across the world.

Some organizations to support for their contribution towards women's empowerment include :
-Women for women international 
-Women's global empowerment fund 
-Times up Legal Defense fund