Reshaping Societal Norms: The Imperative for Women’s Empowerment

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2021

Lavalina Sogani

In the quest for gender equality, reshaping societal norms stands as an indispensable pillar. It is a fact that gender inequality continues to persist in societies across the globe, affecting women’s opportunities, choices, and well-being. To dismantle these long-standing barriers, we must challenge stereotypes and biases ingrained within our cultures. By doing so, we promote gender equality, expand women’s roles in society, enhance their economic independence, and foster their overall well-being.

Equality lies at the heart of women’s empowerment. Reshaping societal norms is essential to rectify the deeply ingrained gender stereotypes that hinder women’s progress. These stereotypes perpetuate the notion that women are inherently less capable than men in various domains. When we challenge these biases, we pave the way for women to be seen as equals, irrespective of their gender.

Economic growth and women’s empowerment are intricately linked. Societies that deny women equal opportunities in the workforce are missing out on the talents, skills, and potential contributions of half their population. By reshaping societal norms to promote women’s participation in the economy, we can unlock new sources of innovation, creativity, and productivity.

Decision-making power is often skewed in favour of men due to societal norms. Women’s empowerment means not only participating in decision-making processes but also having their voices heard and respected. This reshaping of norms promotes fair and just governance.

Education is another critical aspect of women’s empowerment. Reshaping societal norms ensures that girls and women have equal access to education, and it encourages them to pursue careers in STEM fields, traditionally dominated by men. When women are educated and empowered, societies reap the benefits of a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

Health is paramount to well-being, and challenging societal norms play a crucial role in this aspect. In many cultures, harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage persist due to deeply entrenched norms. Reshaping these norms is vital to protect women’s health, ensuring they have control over their bodies and reproductive choices.

Decision-making power is often skewed in favour of men due to societal norms. Women’s empowerment means not only participating in decision-making processes but also having their voices heard and respected. This reshaping of norms promotes fair and just governance. Violence against women remains a global epidemic. Reshaping societal norms can challenge the acceptance of such violence and promote the idea that women have the right to live free from fear and harm. It is a step toward a safer world for women.

Innovation flourishes in diverse environments. When women are empowered and have a seat at the table, their unique perspectives and ideas contribute to a more vibrant and creative society. Reshaping societal norms promotes inclusivity and unlocks the potential for ground-breaking innovations.

Role modelling is an often-underestimated aspect of women’s empowerment. By challenging societal norms, we create role models who inspire other women and girls to break free from traditional limitations. These role models demonstrate that success knows no gender. The significance of community engagement in challenging norms cannot be overstated. Communities hold immense power in reshaping societal attitudes.

Less than 1 per cent of women and girls live in countries with high women’s empowerment and a small gender gap, while more than 90 per cent live in countries characterised by low or middle women’s empowerment and performance in achieving gender parity. This global imbalance underscores the pressing need to challenge and transform existing norms.

Here are some reasons why community involvement is crucial:

Diverse Perspective: Communities comprise individuals from various backgrounds, bringing diverse perspectives to the table, which is essential for challenging ingrained norms.

Collective Action: Communities can mobilise collective action to challenge norms effectively, making it harder for entrenched attitudes to persist.

Support and Solidarity: Community support provides women with the confidence to defy societal norms and pursue their goals, even in the face of resistance.

Awareness and Education: Communities are ideal platforms for raising awareness about the importance of women’s empowerment and educating individuals about gender equality.

Social Pressure: When communities collectively endorse gender equality, it exerts pressure on individuals to conform to these more equitable norms.

Amplification: Community involvement amplifies the voices advocating for change, making it more likely that those in power will take notice.

The statistics presented in the report are a stark reminder of the urgency of reshaping societal norms for women’s empowerment. Women, on average, achieve only 60 per cent[1] of their full potential globally, and they lag by 28 per cent[2] across key human development dimensions. Such disparities are both unjust and detrimental to societal progress. Less than 1 per cent of women and girls live in countries with high women’s empowerment and a small gender gap, while more than 90 per cent live in countries characterised by low or middle women’s empowerment and performance in achieving gender parity. This global imbalance underscores the pressing need to challenge and transform existing norms.

Reshaping societal norms is the cornerstone of women’s empowerment. It is imperative for achieving gender equality, driving economic growth, promoting education, ensuring health and well-being, empowering women in decision-making, preventing violence, fostering innovation, and providing role models. Moreover, community engagement is essential in this endeavour as it brings together diverse perspectives, enables collective action, offers support, raises awareness, applies social pressure, and amplifies the voices advocating for change.

Finally, community involvement is pivotal for women’s empowerment, not just in terms of reshaping norms but also in facilitating:

Skill Development: Communities can provide training and skill development programmes that empower women with the tools they need to succeed.

Networks and Mentorship: Connections within communities can lead to mentorship opportunities, providing women with valuable guidance and support.

Cultural Change: Communities play a central role in shifting cultural norms. By fostering an environment that embraces equality, they become catalysts for broader societal change. 

Reshaping societal norms is the cornerstone of women’s empowerment. It is imperative for achieving gender equality, driving economic growth, promoting education, ensuring health and well-being, empowering women in decision-making, preventing violence, fostering innovation, and providing role models. Moreover, community engagement is essential in this endeavour as it brings together diverse perspectives, enables collective action, offers support, raises awareness, applies social pressure, and amplifies the voices advocating for change. The path to women’s empowerment is through the transformation of societal norms, and it is a path we must all collectively tread to build a fairer, more equitable world.

Lavalina Sogani is the Founder-Secretary of Vimukti Sanstha, a social venture aimed at transforming the lives of girls living in slums. Under her guidance, Vimukti Sanstha has remained steadfastly committed to providing equal education opportunities to vulnerable girls. Throughout the past 40 years, she has dedicated herself to nurturing young minds, offering them a comprehensive education that prepares them for academic excellence and success beyond the confines of the classroom.

[1] As measured by the Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI)
[2] GGPI