Empowerment is an unweildy thing.
What empowers you?
What is it in your background, your education, your faith, your culture, that empowers you?
Think about it...it really is a difficult question.
Perhaps in order to see yourself clearly you have to stand in someone else's shoes.
I certainly would never have considered myself a particularly "empowered" person.
But the fact is that I am. When someone mistreats me I am surprised. And indignant. When I face a new task, something I've never done before, I generally give it a try. Yeah, I might screw it up, but I might succeed. Who knows? When I talk to someone, I assume they will listen. Maybe not agree, but listen at least. I assume I can go somewhere new, do something else, or try again on something I've failed before.
But what if you never learned to do those things? In Congo, handicapped women are pretty much on the bottom of the totem pole. They are never seen as adults, because to be an adult woman means to be married and bear children. And handicapped women are unlikely to have the opportunity to marry. But to be a child forever?
So when I see the ladies that I work with, as they struggle for independence, I see the many ways that my life has empowered me. And I wonder what it is like to be treated badly, and not stand up and shout. To not expect more. Of the world...or myself.
And so the SHONA ladies and I, struggle towards the goal of empowerment. And I wish I had some magic formula. I wish empowerment could be handed around on a silver platter. But it is hard work, as it is supposed to be. And they tackle it with both hands. Last month we started an adult education program. The SHONA ladies are currently taking math, French, and a course in "Faith and Action" (studying the lives of people around the world who have demonstrated faith through their actions). As a teacher I don't think I've ever seen more motivated students, and I guess that is the point. That is where empowerment begins.