Empowerment is something that we regularly talk about at Caritas Smile. It’s at the center of our Take a Trip, Change a Life program and why we’re constantly searching for volunteers or donations to help us in our cause. However, we are aware that empowerment is a word that has become a buzzword in many circles. Thus, you might not know what it means or why it is important.
What does it mean?
Empowerment is exactly what it sounds like – the process of becoming more confident and stronger. That is, empowerment is a multi-dimensional process that combines our inner life and social context because by becoming more confident, building a stronger sense of self, and developing a voice, our relationships to others (family, community, work, etc.) change for the better. This means that empowerment can challenge the status quo and our basic assumptions of what we think life should be like.
Why is it important?
Empowerment is important because it changes lives. By this we mean that because empowerment is done through the development of tools, resources, and motivation you need to be a stronger person, you learn the skillset you need to reach your goals in life. Additionally, as you become more confident, your goals can strengthen, widen, or even change completely. A basic example of this is teaching a child how to read. At first, you’ll start slow, leading children step by step through their learning. They’ll make mistakes, stammer, stutter, and sometimes fail, but they’ll eventually be reading by themselves. After that the child can discover a love for books that develops throughout their lifetime and can lead them to exciting adventures and life choices. Because of this new knowledge which you helped them develop, their possibilities become endless, but it all started with a child who wanted to learn how to read.
Yet, that’s only a small example of how important empowerment is. To understand why, now imagine teaching a whole community how to read. Imagine how much their horizons widen, and their options broaden because they now have an important tool that they can use to better themselves and their lives. Imagine how this can change not just their lives, but their surroundings as through reading they learn how to better take care of themselves and their loved ones, they learn how important it is to take care of the earth and how best to do it, they learn how to equip themselves and think critically as they acquire more knowledge which they’ll share with others.
Because you gave a valuable tool to a community, they now have the possibility of becoming professors, engineers, scientists, and many more things. That’s exactly what Caritas Smile is aiming for and what we mean that we aim to empower people – we want to give impoverished communities the tools and resources they need so that they can develop and change their world. For us, empowerment isn’t a buzzword, it’s an important tool in changing the world. By empowering these communities, we’re helping them improve their lives through their own choices. We don’t aim to speak for them or say what they need, but to give them the necessary tools so they can speak for themselves and create the future they want.
Talia Velez is a Growth Impact Officer at Caritas Smile, a non-profit service travel program dedicated to making positive impacts and sustainable changes for women and children in developing countries. Having grown up in Mexico, Talia is keenly aware of the day-to-day issues faced by women and children in countries with more economic vulnerability. Visit our site to learn more about Caritas Smile and join us in our mission to help those in need.