By Stacey Lewis
We are blessed to be living in an era where women have a historically unprecedented level of equality. But if we are truly meant to be viewed as equal citizens, then why is it that “women’s empowerment” is still a buzzword? Technically speaking, there is nothing that our lack of a Y chromosome should prevent us from doing – but somehow, women continue to feel disempowered and we continually sell ourselves short.
For the past five years, I have dedicated myself to assisting people through their divorce processes. Yet, after all this time, I have never received a panic-stricken phone call from a man, asking me to assist him with basics like opening a bank account and paying a utility bill. Why is it that, despite these so-called ‘strides’ politically and in the workplace, that women continually allow themselves to feel lesser than?
We need to acknowledge that indigenous cultures in South Africa have always been traditionally patriarchal. Even religiously, women have not always been afforded their full rights as human beings. This might all seem like it’s in the past, but we still find ourselves needing to go out of our way to empower other women.
Where does this all come from?
I consider myself privileged. I was blessed with an education at a school where I never felt I needed to prove myself as a woman. I studied to be a Physiotherapist – there was no differentiation between men and women in our profession. Yet, I still found myself becoming disempowered within a marriage. My husband (at the time) and I, had three children in quick succession and I found myself becoming more dependent on him due to the fact that I was raising three babies. Although I was able to return to work soon after each birth, I still wasn’t able to work at my full capacity. I thought we were a team. I managed to maintain some degree of financial independence but I certainly wasn’t fully self-sufficient. I was completely blindsided when my husband came home one day and announced that he wanted a divorce. My oldest child was three years old and my baby was eight months old. I felt as if my world had been pulled out from beneath me..
I managed to rebuild myself and regain my financial and emotional independence. Even as a seemingly empowered, independent woman, I had allowed myself to become dependent on another human being. I needed to take responsibility for this and change my game plan. I needed to build myself up to the point where I would be able to have a healthy relationship where both of us would contribute, but where I still knew that I was whole and complete on my own and that I could take care of myself.
Women are nurturers by nature.. We may co-parent, but there are (generally speaking) more family / child-related demands placed on women. Somehow the traditional role of mother and homemaker has remained, even though we’re an active force in the workplace. We owe it to ourselves to be able to look after ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to have knowledge of our finances; we owe it to ourselves to be financially independent; we owe it to ourselves to love ourselves enough to first fill our own cups, so that we can continue to nurture both ourselves and others.