Q&A: Empowering Women

Q&A: Empowering Women





International speaker, author, executive leadership coach & consultant, diversity & mentoring coach




Director for Gender, Women and Youth Department at All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC)


Q: Across this and other studies, the data show men as being more sure of their place in the world compared to women. What do you think contributes to this? 01

NATASHA: There’s equal pressure to feel successful, but men and women aren’t giving up the same thing for that success. Women are sacrificing more and getting less, not just in pay, but in life in general. The trajectory of feminism, particularly in the West, has placed an emphasis on making your mark in the world, getting a seat at the table, earning equal pay, busting those glass ceilings. In other words, a lot of the emphasis on feminism has been on life outside the home, and there hasn’t been a parallel emphasis among men to invest at home, or to elevate home life. So both genders are elevating work life without a similar emphasis placed on the home. Typically, the people making decisions in the workplace regarding family leave, pay and other aspects of work that affect our lives at home are men. There’s a lot of power in that seat at the table in the workplace that directly impacts the home, and I would like to see men have more integrity and intentionality in how they steward that power.



Q: When you’re working with and mentoring young women, what are some of the messages you’re trying to elevate or lies you’re trying to counteract? 02

NATASHA: Most of the young people I mentor, particularly in my nonprofit, are African-American high school girls, and these are their formative years. I work with a team of men and women of diverse generations, and part of the way we are stewarding, training and influencing them, is by what we model. The way we have healthy male and female relationships. Showing them this is what a healthy marriage looks like. This is what a sisterhood feels like.

I say to the young women who come to us, I don’t like giving people pipe dreams. We teach them about basic stuff: You have to work hard. You have to be a person of character. You have to be clear about your purpose. Bad company corrupts good morals. Sometimes they know it’s from the Bible, and sometimes they don’t, but they’re good principles. So we model for them, we talk to them, and then we allow them to practice these various things in their faith, mental health, their health and wellness, because we want to develop them holistically as leaders.

In our leadership summer program, we offer four workshops every year: in media & art, business & entrepreneurship, military & government and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We have women leaders expose them to different parts of that career field, and then the girls get active engagement and ask questions. The reason we do that is because those are fields where women are traditionally underrepresented in higher echelons of leadership. A lot of times, women and girls are cut out of the race because they don’t even know what’s out there and how to prepare.


Q: How does poverty create more vulnerability for women? 03

LYDIA: Deeply rooted structural obstacles, such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality, hold African women back. Women and girls are, therefore, often disproportionately affected by poverty because of their already precarious situation due to structurally unequal power relations.

For instance, agriculture is the backbone of most African economies, and smallholder women farmers comprise nearly half of the labor force in Africa’s agriculture sector.12 However, ironically, women remain the majority of the landless. They are increasingly shouldering the burden of family and community care in the African context of war, hunger and disease. The burden of care with little or no resources is an emotional burden to which women are subjected, and unfortunately, it’s still connected to discrimination.

There is also gender disparity in valuation of labor, whereby a woman’s role is accorded lower status or importance.

Q: What are solutions to begin closing these gender gaps? 04

LYDIA: At the AACC, we find the following models useful:

  • Deconstructing / demolishing hierarchical gender constructions and reconstructing masculinities and femininities in egalitarian ways. Education is a key tool here, engaging all institutions.
  • Domesticating and implementing all the legal instruments for gender justice and encouraging religious actors, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations to hold governments accountable when rights of women are violated. Advocacy about these legal instruments is required among the stakeholders to create awareness about them.
  • Promoting women’s and youth’s entrepreneurial skills development for wealth creation.
  • Interpreting and appropriating non-liberating, gendered biblical texts in life-affirming ways. Some texts have been used to reinforce unhelpful cultural beliefs and attitudes toward women not only in the history of the Christian tradition, but in all areas of life.
  • Giving legal instruments a biblical and theological basis. This can be done by using biblical and theological models, which offer foundations for gender equality.
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