The True Meaning of Empowerment
The word “empower/empowerment” is everywhere. This past week alone I read it in conjunction with an AAA marketing campaign and on some advertisement for Walmart. Definitions of empower include “to promote self-actualization”. The unfortunate cultural watering-down of the term does a disservice to its genuine meaning. But at SEGA School for Girls, empowerment is happening in the realest of ways.
I spent ten weeks at SEGA this past fall in the unique position of a mid-career intern. As a Master’s degree candidate at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management, I applied for the position and was delighted to learn late last spring that I had been accepted. My responsibilities at SEGA were varied and eclectic. I assisted with English immersion classes for Pre-Form One, taught after school drama classes, worked extensively on volunteers on-boarding materials, and my favorite duty was coaching three students on their speech writing and public speaking skills. These young women went on to tour with Nurturing Minds in the U.S recently and I loved hearing about their triumphs and adventures.
I am often asked about “highlights/lowlights” of my fall 2018 trip to Morogoro. Lowlights might have to do with beetles. But without question highlights – for all of us – are the girls themselves. Not only is one taken with their fortitude, resilience, smiles, smarts, beauty and laughter, but I was profoundly moved as well by the opportunity to witness authentic empowerment taking place before me. Seen in multiple every day moments, the messages of self-worth, hope, strength, self-protection and aspirational living are spread across the SEGA campus. The twice a week morning assemblies where the girls present are living laboratories of empowerment-in-action. The students (of all ages) speak to their sisters frankly and earnestly about issues around safety, girls’ rights, health and sexuality, career dreams, social justice, managing emotions, and education.
The school’s Education for Life department does a remarkable job of preparing and coaching the girls on these assembly presentations.
Contributors to SEGA can be proud and assured that their donations work towards the all-important goal of empowering vulnerable Tanzanian girls. This, my marafiki*, is real empowerment.
*Swahili for friends