Category Archives: Empowerment

Gender Equality: Balance of 2016 and Priorities for 2017

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call-to-women

Another Solar year is almost finished and it’s time for making a balance of achievements regarding gender equality in the personal and global spheres and to set some guiding priorities for the year that starts.

Take some time to reflect on what you have achieved in your personal life this year in what regards your empowerment as a woman. Where are you now compared to the previous year? What are the new understandings you have? What are the new tools to deal with situations and people you have acquired? What are the actions you took that contributed to your empowerment and human development? Who was there supporting you in your development? What are the weaknesses you still need to work on? These and other questions can guide you into the new year with a sense of achievement and power that arises not from having all answers right, but from the feeling of being in the right path towards your own development and freedom.

In terms of the achievements attained this year on gender equality at global level UN Women identifies some important ones in spheres as diverse as fight against gender based violence, work, sciences, sport, child marriage, legal, political, media, etc.. While these are all important achievements let’s bear in mind that new laws and policies must be implemented and that numbers are a ‘quantity factor’ and very often hide a (lack of) ‘quality factor’ that must be developed as a second step. And also remind ourselves that the path towards equality takes ages to build and few seconds to destroy thus requiring all our attention not to move backwards.

And what’s next? Is my wish to write some lines on what I believe are some priorities on the gender equality movement for the next year.

Priority number one is to bring more men into the movement. Gender equality is still seen as a women’s issue and this must change, because otherwise it would be called ‘women’s equality’ instead of gender equality. Gender refers to all possible genders in the gender continuum and therefore the gender equality movement must be inclusive of all people. The fact is that, despite their gender, all people are oppressed by gender roles and stereotypes. Some genders, namely men, feel to have more privileges, and indeed they do have. But men are actually excluded from very important spheres of human life, for instance emotional life, care and love work, and they are expected to fulfil certain impossible expectations, like being the number one provider, being always strong and right, taking right decisions alone, and so on. Moving towards more balanced notions of masculinities is certainly a priority already acknowledged by few men. Now the effort must be for these conscious men to take a leading role on supporting other men towards this understanding and practice.

A second priority should be to work towards community by bringing the different gender movements and groups to work more closely together, cooperating towards the achievement of common goals. The separation and division between LGBTQI, white women’s movement, black women’s movement, men’s movement, and do on, is a weakness that should be overcame in order to make a stronger movement that works cooperatively with a long-term perspective. Working towards community will require an effort from the different parts involved, the effort of getting to know and accepting each other, the effort of integrating all views into a more complex and hence truer picture, the effort of setting common goals and defining a strategic plan of concerted actions. Diversity will be a great asset of this wider community as many roles must be fulfilled and many different actions must be taken to implement this common strategic plan.

A third essential priority is to free women and other groups being discriminated against from the burden of having to take the responsibility alone for their own empowerment and rights. As a woman I feel often tired of constantly being asked to deal with my stuff, to deal with sexism, to excuse it, to relax, to give time, to understand. I say ENOUGH! What about asking sexists to deal with their own stuff and take responsibility for their behaviour, making an effort to open their narrow mind and embrace otherness into their egocentric world? Why not starting empowerment groups for sexist people, instead of asking women and other groups being discriminated against to empower themselves with no effort and commitment from the other side? If we for once change the concept of victim and weakness, we would actually see many men and sexist, racist, and other ‘ists’ for what they really are: human beings in pain and in need of help to become more human and loving, in real need of help to embrace reality in its complexity, to see the Earth as friend and not as a resource to exploit, to get out of their ego prison. I pity those who need to put someone down to feel better, I truly do.

In the era of ‘pseudo-communication’ it becomes necessary to ask from all media more responsibility in the fulfilment of their role in contributing to end gender inequalities. This is thus the forth priority I identify for the year 2017, to have media taking an active role in creating greater gender equality. This would pass through simple actions: having more non-sexist women in the top management of media organisations, women who have the courage to be inspiring leaders by designing and implementing concrete measures towards gender equality, for instance stop using gender stereotypes in adds and stop using women’s bodies as a ‘sell everything sort of object’, develop creative ways to promote equality in the media, create tools that can track and delete sexist and other forms of hate speech from digital media. These are few that come to my mind as I write but certainly many more could be set up. It is crucial that all stakeholders assume their responsibility in creating a world free from discrimination and oppression.

It is essential that human beings uplift their consciousness to a higher level, stop using cynicism as an excuse for not being whole and coherent, putting their efforts in bringing the institutions they lead towards a next level.

I final priority comes in the form of a Call to Action for Women to assume their leadership in a local and global scale towards a world shaped by alternative values and ways of doing and being. I want to call it a feminine leadership approach, which brings greater value to care and love, to bonding and community, to cooperation and communication, to being coherent and integral, to create a different set of priorities, that is about equality and empowerment of individual differences, acceptance and complementarity. I have this dream of seeing women of all ages taking the lead in their local communities and shaping different and human places of empowerment while simultaneously creating learning contexts for other women to take the lead, showing with their actions that it is possible to be and act differently, to be happy and to be whole.

So allow me to close this post with this open and warm invitation to all Women to own their great power and let their inner leader to surface and shape a true world community!

On self-confidence and the sense of entitlement

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ce173d37d4057a8aa12a36c2cafc18c9Today I have challenged myself to write about self-confidence, and I say challenge because this is a subject that has been living with me since I can remember, with increased awareness of the impact it has in my advancement as a woman and a human being.

I find it useful to start by understanding the meaning of self-confidence. Neel Burton, in a blog called Psychology Today, describes self-confidence and self-esteem in a simple and understandable way: self-confidence is about trust in our hability to successfully or adequately interact with the world, it is about capacities. Self-esteem is about the cognitive and emotional appraisal of our own value, it is about self-love, and is as important as to determine our interaction with ourselves, others and the world. Burton also makes an interesting reference to courage as complementar to self-confidence: while the second is useful in the realm of the known, the first is what enables us to move in the realm of the unknown, uncertainty and fear. As Scott Peck puts it, courage is the effort to overcome fear, it enables action that expands the self and/or the other, it is an act of self-love.

This being said, I would like to explore some of the factors related to self-confidence. From a psychological perspective self-confidence requires important ingredients during the development process and socialization of a child, namely:

  • Sense of being loved and feeling a person of worth
  • Havig our self-expression -opinions, ideas and creations- appreciated and valued
  • Being recognized for our individual and special capacities and talents
  • Being seen and recognized by meaningful people in our life
  • Having our sense of dignity protected

All this happen in the familiar milieu, but is also shaped by other external experiences that may be brought home, shared and reflected together with parents or other reference figures. I am not sure whether all these factors were always present in my life when I was a child, but I clearly remember to be humiliated by a close family member, which I admired and appreciated, who dared (probably driven by ignorance) to diminish my appearance and my intelectual capacity. This happened in an age when I was unable to understand that this person had no right to act that way, that this person was wrong in his words, and it deeply affected me throughout life.

Yet, to fully understand self-confidence (and the lack of it) I believe it is important to look at it from a gender perspective. The situation above described is a good starting point as it was clearly shaped by patriarcal thinking. It is clear to me that dominance and power determined the interaction between my young self and the referred male.

How many of these interactions does a child (all genders) goes through in their life?  And in which ways does this influences people’s lives as grown ups? I am convinced that this type of situation deeply affects self-confidence as it creates that feeling of being not good enough, not skilled or smart enough, not beautiful enough. And considering that our women’s lives are permeated by thousands of images that portray this same message, I feel it is quite “normal” to be lacking self-confidence.

Unfortunately is not easy to find literature that enlightens our spirit on the gendered dimension of self-confidence. Consequently and out of self-love and pure desire to develop myself spiritually I have been reflecting on my own experience, observing other women and men around me, to grasp and comprehend what else is at stake when we talk about self-confidence. The first observation, well know to most of us, is that men in general show a strong self-confidence in their words and actions, despite the fact that very often they don’t feel it, they just fake it, or it just comes easy to them because they are used to be listened to and to have their words acknowledged by others. I have also come to realize that some women that seem to be self-confident, deep inside are not, they fake it as men do, mimicking their behavior, their words and sometimes even their aggressiveness.

I have also come across young women who talk and behave in a very confident way, and that is authentic, they really feel that entitlement… And this word, this feeling of entitlement was an AHA! moment to me. That word stayed within me. I carried it for days and weeks until I could finally realize what was actually blocking my self-confidence, that ungraspable part of the complex set of factors. This inability to give things a name is the hardest part. It is there, present, influencing you, but until you name it you can’t fully understand it, and thus you can’t fight it and change it.

I have finally come to realise that I have always been waiting for other people to recognize me and to allow/support me to do things. I mean, I have always done things, the things I love, but always feeling inner concern and fear of not being good enough, of doing a mistake. Still I was doing them, but not as good as I know I can. I have always received this external recognition, I have a bunch of friends and colleagues telling me how good I am in what I do, but I have not been able to tell it to myself so far. And I could not realise why until now.

The truth is that, until we recognize our strengths and capacities, until we tell ourselves how great we are, and therefore entitle us to accept a promotion, to do what we love, to express our thoughts and ideas, things will not change, self-confidence will be lacking to a certain extent. Because there is no one better than another, as human beings we are all entitled to self-expression and to do things and to decide. And as we do, as we decide, we will realise our potential and our greatness and have our self-confidence reinforced.

I strongly believe in the influence exerted by patriarcal system on this need for an external person to recognise and entitle us. In a system based on strong hierarchies, power chains, a binary framework of opposites which assume positive (male, rational, strong,…) and negative (female, emotional, vulnerable, …) values it is easy to fall in the misunderstanding so well put by Roman Krznaric’s:

A lack of confidence is at heart a misunderstanding of the way the world works. It’s an internalized feudalism, which imagines that only certain people — but not oneself — have the right, preordained, to get certain things.

In this world where women and minority groups are not named, and therefore not seen, it is easy to fall in the trap of giving to other people the power of entitlement, that is also a power over our lives.

To reclaim this power is crucial to increased self-confidence and to live joyfully, and it is key to women’s advancement and thus to the advancement of the World.

 

An unexpected couple

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grandmotherToday I want to share with you the story of a rather unexpected couple I know closely and that is, in a way, the confirmation of my last post on the importance of Sisterhood for women’s empowerment and happiness.

This couple, or partnership, as you may prefer, brings together two divorced women, one in her thirties and the other in her eighties. The first is actively engaged in social entrepreneurship, non-formal education and change, and is a freelance (sometimes) quite lost in the world. The second is retired and her main occupation is to build some new and empowering stories about her past, to be worried about everybody else in the family, and to complain about the loneliness and the body pain. These two women share the same living space and sustain each other through life situations that, as you may imagine, are quite diverse. They are actually a great match, not entirely free of arguments and conflicts, but so far they are doing quite well.

This kind of alliance, not so rare anymore I believe, has led me to some reflection on the values that drive people’s life nowadays, specially around the subject of time, love, intergenerational dialogue and rest/leisure:

Time to love, time to dedicate attention, time to be and to rest. Why society’s definition of success seems to be determined only by the amount of time people expend doing (a certain type) of work? What is work? How can we humanise work? Aren’t there any other measures of a person’s worth, that value other components of the human being?* How to love and how to fulfil the ‘love is as love does‘ maxim? And how to apply these principles and values in a relation with a old grandmother with her vulnerability and stubbornness, with her own way of being and (not) doing things?

On the other way around this situation has a lot to do with gender and gender equality, this mutual care and respect for each other that is Sisterhood. This partnership has been of utmost importance to a woman who is building her economic independence. And despite the refusal and frustration it often creates, I am convinced this is a win-win situation for both of them, from all perspectives.

It also reinforces the realisation that normality is a painful and unrealistic goal to aspire to, because the only normality that exists is our individual normality: What makes me feel good and happy? What is the best version of myself? What do I want to achieve? Who I want to be?

On the top of it, to live with the grandmother also represents an exceptional life experience, and the greatest and deepest intergenerational exchange one could ever wish for. To accompany a grandmother in her getting older is simultaneously tough and beautiful, it reveals a lot of who we are and is a mirage of how we will be. No time for hiding or lying, in front of you the wane we all will be subject to. No matter what, oldness is awaiting everyone who will have to joy (or else…) of a long life.

* Check this post for a great reflection on this subject.

On the way to personal leadership

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hand-eye-coordination

I have been looking forward to (re)start to write this blog since several weeks now. Despite that I could not find the motivation, or better, the time and availability to reconnect to what matters the most to me: women’s empowerment, spiritual and self-development, and education.

It seem though that the time as come, and as usually the energy has been unlocked by doing the things I love, meeting wonderful people-belonging to a community of authentic people, feeling connected and accepted, and sharing a higher purpose in life with other people. These are, in my experience, four main ingredients that create and give the necessary energy to live the life we envision for ourselves.

I am realising that to live the life I envision/desire for myself I have first of all to know how it looks like, what is part of it, who, when… Seems quite obvious I know, but very often we don’t take the time to discover and design the life we dream for ourselves, other times we are blocked by fear or lack of confidence, or by other circumstances. Taking responsibility, disciplining ourselves, postponing gratification and, above all, loving ourselves*, are essential ingredients that may help us in this process of personal leadership towards our purpose.

At the same time, bearing in mind some of the advices of Tara Mohr can also be useful. She calls our attention for the obstacles women put to ourselves in the way to self-fulfilment in personal and professional life. Never good enough, never yet prepared, never confident enough… Why?! Yes, we know why, we know we still live in a society that in subtle (or less subtle) ways undervalue women and what it means in our cultural context to be feminine. It is up to us to recognise our own value, to be proud of our own ways of doing things and living, our values and strengths, so that we can take real leadership in transforming our lives and the world!

* M. Scott Peck (1978). The Road Less Travelled.

An analysis of power dynamics at work

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power and languageWith this post I want to open a reflection and a conversation, among other on issues of power and language in the working context. I will do so by analysing a real situation where I was directly involved. Hopefully this analysis will boost awareness-raising contributing to workers’ empowerment and eventually to build up efficient bottom-up protection mechanisms.

Just some days ago I received an email from the chief coordinator of a project I recently got involved in. This person wrote me to say that my performance was not what the coordinating team expected and needed and therefore my services were no longer needed. Read the rest of this entry