Finding Strength in Independence: Empowering Women to Have Greater Choice
Empowerment means nothing without the right to choose. Today, debates over women’s advancement too often revolve around discussions on what is “best” for women, without considering the individuality of empowerment. In reality, the path of empowerment varies dramatically in definition from woman to woman. True empowerment must include the right of individuals to define the word for themselves.
In Lebanon, and in the Arab region broadly, the weight on women to follow one singular path towards marriage can oftentimes inhibit other choices they may have made alternatively. Rigid norms that demand women decide between marriage and career, with heavy insistence on choosing the former, ignore the truth that they should certainly have the right to pursue either, both, or even neither.
Educated women who choose to pursue a career, not only contribute positively to their countries’ economies, they often raise healthier, happier families as a result.
This is, of course, not to say that women who do not elect for careers are necessarily less equipped as mothers, but rather that joining a profession does not hinder one’s ability to have a successful family life and marriage. The concepts of “duty” or “obligation” seem out of place when talking about marriage.
The question is not whether women should or shouldn’t get married and start families. The question is: when will we start considering who women want to be versus only thinking about who they want to be with?
So too should we question the social pressure to marry young. Starting a family has no optimal time frame. Any insistence that rushes young women to make such consequential decisions regarding their lives and futures harms them individually just as it harms the society as a whole. Put simply, when our mothers, daughters, and sisters are granted the freedom to make their lives what they will, the entire community thrives.
While recognizing the intrinsic beauty of marriage and motherhood, we should also acknowledge the reality that these institutions do not suit all women. Plenty do not wish to raise children, and they should not be shamed for that. Rigid molds that dictate women’s roles hinder the ability of many to find meaningful fulfillment and realize their full potential.
Today more than ever, the world needs the contributions of strong, capable women.
We should aim to create a world wherein their many different gifts and talents can be fully expressed, wherein individuals are encouraged to discover for themselves what empowerment means, and how to pursue it. Whether that means being a CEO or a stay-at-home mom, we’re here for it!