Pathways of Women Empowerment In cooperation with AUC social research centre (SRC)

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What are the approaches needed in empowering women? How to make a change and create a difference? All these questions were answered by professors and researchers from various societies and cultures sharing one goal; Women Empowerment.


Researchers gathered at the “Pathways of Women’s Empowerment” research consortium conference that took place last January, consisting of partners from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The main goal of the conference is to contribute to positive change in terms of women’s rights in general as well as finding solutions to advance women’s struggles for rights and recognition on global and local level.


 “Invest where the energy is” is a common philosophy among the participating researchers based on similar findings. There are three themes mirroring the principle demands of feminist and women’s movements over the last three decades which helped this process of “pathways” come to light:


Body: women should be able to choose and decide over their bodies in terms of sexuality, child bearing partners and timing, the way she is portrayed in media and religion.


Voice: ranging from her ability to exert control over the decisions that affect her everyday life to issues of representation and effectiveness in political institutions at all levels.


Work: touching upon methods to empower women at the workplace, while investigating the drastic shifts that have take place and how women mobilize to claim their rights as workers, especially in poorly paid and stigmatized professions.


“Women empowerment” aims to give women increased choices, thus linking women empowerment with gender equality bridges enables women to gain power to transform their own lives with strategies for changing inequitable gender relations that affect everyone. Naila Kabir, a social economist and researcher from Bangladesh presented a paper on “Paid Work and Pathways to Women Empowerment” in which she describes empowerment as a “journey without maps”, a process that takes women into uncharted terrain. Naila worked in four geographical regions such as Latin America, Middle East, South Asia and West Africa as well as New York, Paris and London, which make up the world of global development policy. Under the supervision of the Egyptian government, Kabir is researching state of women in “Ein Al Sira”, a poverty struck area in Cairo, in order to assess and develop their conditions. Naila Kabir met with us for a brief insight on her outstanding and continuous effort on the pathway to empower women.




What are the differences between Eastern Asian and Middle Eastern women in terms of achieved rights of social policy and gender inequality?


They have lots in common actually as women in East Asia are perceived the same way in the Middle East. Whereas women in the Middle East hold more positions in the public sector compared to their Asian counterparts. According to social policies, there are more negotiated marriage rights in India, for example, than the Middle East. The gender equality has improved a lot in India since most of the leading governmental positions are held by women today and the number of female participation in previous elections has increased tremendously.



Do you think the economic crisis we’re facing nowadays will have a negative effect on employment vacancies for women in the Middle East regarding gender inequality?


Women won’t be kicked out of their jobs, but will be provided with jobs that aren’t well paid according to their economic state or their education, unless the Egyptian government put gender equality into consideration and make sure that not only women lose their jobs.




Akosua Ampofo is the Head of the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana. She is also an associate professor at the Institute of African Studies. Her teaching and research focus on education, gender, health, identity politics, and women and work, and some of her recent interests include gender in higher education, constructions of masculinity and femininity; gender-based violence and the global sex industry. She presented a research project that looked at “Changing Representations of Women in Ghanaian Popular Music”. Ampofo speaks to us about her agenda.



What forms of male-female common interests could be used in order to get rid of gender inequality?


Unfortunately, common interests alone aren’t enough to get rid of gender inequality. You see, the house is a common interest between a husband and a wife and the wife always is the one who take care of everything considering the house, the kids, the cooking and cleaning; so shared interests aren’t a solution alone to get rid of inequality. We must spread awareness according to inequality to achieve common interests between a man and a woman.


How to raise awareness in order to stop the display of women as sex symbols in the media?


The main problem is that sex sells. People use sex as a commercial profit in the media and women should start the awareness themselves. It’s enough for women singing about men and male lovers. Start singing about their power and their influential features other than sex and female performers themselves should sing about the other features women have that could be captivating other than sex. We have that music video in Ghana that is called “I’m 16” and shows a girl wearing a very short tight skirt and taking an older man to court for raping her, the video wraps up the idea that women are okay with seducing men but when they come to being raped or harassed it’s a major problem, so bottom line women must start with themselves first.


“The role of the Women and Memory Forum is always to rewrite and display stories of influential women from history and up till now to remind people of great women roles and achievements throughout history and change the image of women in our societies. We promote our work through the media and conferences”, adds Mona Ali, professor of literature at Cairo University and active member of the Women and Memory Forum. Her paper entitled “Rewriting desire in the Women and Memory Forum’s Storytelling Project”, presented during the conference discusses the imaging of women.



The pathways to women empowerment shed light into the different efforts and methodologies necessary to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women in the Middle East.



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