How Women’s Empowerment Events Can Impact the Local Community
On June 28, YWCA Cass Clay celebrated the Women of the Year 50th anniversary and women’s empowerment with the event “Empowered! Women Who Rise Above,” featuring award-winning actress and best-selling author Ashley Judd. There are many reasons that I wanted to attend this event, one of which is my admiration for Judd and all that she’s done for women around the world. But aside from that, it is important to see women taking charge of their lives and being confident in themselves and their abilities—in other words, women being empowered. After attending the event, it was clearer than ever how important these kinds of women-focused events and communities are for women in both their personal and professional lives. Here are some of the key takeaways from the event.
- the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.
#1) Mentorship is vital for girls and young women.
So often, those who have support from other women forget that not all women have the same privilege. Throughout the “Empowered!” event, Judd emphasized that having a mentor to help you navigate the difficulties that being a woman can bring is absolutely vital for girls and young women. Without this mentorship, young women may not have the confidence or knowledge to stand up for themselves, and they also may not have anyone who will stand up for them.
In the business world, this is especially true. Being a young professional woman in male-dominated fields is particularly scary. Many believe women don’t belong in business, or that they don’t belong at the top of the business food chain. Luckily for us, the Fargo-Moorhead area has a whole lot of professional women who have been immersed in these fields for years.
If you are one of those women, take a young professional under your wing and help them navigate the world of business a little more smoothly. If you are not sure who might need a mentor in your day-to-day, think about the girls or young women in your personal life that might need someone in their corner. Be an open ear and a shoulder to lean on for them, because you never know if they have support already. Being that mentor for them will build confidence in them and increase the chances that they will empower more girls and women as they grow older. The world needs more empowered women!
#2) Community continues to be important for women of all ages.
Young women aren’t the only ones who need someone to stand with them, though. 50 years ago, when the YWCA Women of the Year event was founded, it was not common for women to gather together for large events. The community of empowered women that YWCA creates is a strong one, and knowing that you have a group of women who will have your back is sure to make you feel safer and more secure.
Though, as we get older, we often move from the mentee role to the mentor role, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to have a community that will stand by us in our worst times. If you don’t have a community of women that you can count on yet, join one or make one! There are many professional networking groups in the Fargo-Moorhead area that might be the perfect fit for you. If a formal group isn’t really your style, get some friends or coworkers together and have a game night, start a book club, or just go out to eat together. Having a community of supportive women around you who will lift you up when you need it most will encourage you to be your best self and to lift other women up, too.
About Ashley Judd
Ashley Judd is a Harvard Graduate, a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actress, a social justice humanitarian, and a NY Times best-selling author. As a humanitarian, she advocates for the rights and health of girls and women worldwide. She has traveled to over 20 countries, spending time in brothels, refugee camps, hospices, and slums while learning directly from the vulnerable and resilient about violence and how to overcome gender inequality. Ashley was Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2017 as one of the Silence Breakers and the United Nations honored her as Global Advocate of the Year in 2019.
About YWCA Cass Clay
“YWCA Cass Clay is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.”
“[They] carry out this mission through the pillar of empowerment, by helping women gain confidence as they recover from the damaging effects of poverty and violence. Each woman who comes to [their] door is given the tools needed to transform her life. Without judgment, [they] offer safe shelter, food, clothing, childcare, education and employment services, health counseling, and transportation assistance on each woman’s personal journey to independence.”
– YWCA Cass Clay Website, ywcacassclay.org
#3) Stand up for girls and women.
The YWCA speakers, along with Ashley Judd, all emphasized the need to stand up for those who are most vulnerable and may not be able to stand up for themselves. Whether it’s your best friend, your mom, or a random stranger, supporting women when we see or hear that they need it will help strengthen the relationships between women in our community.
When women are empowered to stand up for themselves and others, it improves conditions for everyone slowly but surely. In recent years, as women have spoken up about the way they’re treated at work, work environments have improved around the country. Speaking up about mistreatment has also helped bring attention to gender inequality in society in general, as well, and while things are getting better in many ways, there are many ways that women still experience unfair treatment. As women continue to stand their ground and speak up when they are being treated unfairly or poorly, we will see continued improvement in work environments, legislation, and our personal lives.
#4) Confidence and strength come from inside you, then you can empower others.
There is a lot of emphasis on supporting each other, but another of the many important messages from this event was that we need to believe in ourselves in order to be able to be truly empowered. When we fully believe in ourselves, it’s a lot easier to take on those mentoring roles with confidence and trust that we will do well by our mentees. It’s also easier to stand up for others when you are confident in who you are and why you are helping them.
Judd noted that your confidence and strength have to come from inside you—no one else can make you feel confident if you don’t believe in who you are and what you are doing in life. But of course, believing in yourself and having confidence isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish, especially with limited resources. It can take a lot of work to get to the point where you can sustain that trust in yourself and your abilities, which is where Judd’s faith contributes to her peace and empowerment.
#5) Be comfortable with who you are, and have faith—you are worth it, and you deserve to thrive.
The overarching message that YWCA sends every day, and the message that Ashley Judd provided, is that every woman deserves to be cared about and supported—no matter her life circumstances. This is a message that is hard to remember or believe when our day-to-day lives are so busy with work and personal life, or when we are so stressed about external factors out of our control. Judd, who often referred to her “Higher Power” throughout the afternoon’s discussion, stressed that—whether it’s due to your faith in a higher power or not—knowing and believing you will be okay internally despite external circumstances is what gets you through the tough situations you might find yourself in. The more faith you have that things will turn out okay, the less stress you will have about those external pressures. Judd attributes her calm demeanor to this faith—she does not feel like she has to panic or yell when she is treated unfairly due to her gender because she trusts that she will be okay no matter what happens.
#6) Be kind.
The final lesson that this event imparted to the audience is to be kind. Judd didn’t have to say this directly—she just embodied kindness. Even with such a calm demeanor, she fully engaged the audience and inspired so many to be more compassionate. She spent hardly any time talking about herself and focused on the women who changed her life for the better. She held herself with such confidence and passion for empowering women and spreading kindness that it would be hard to not believe what she was saying. It is clear that she dedicates her life to lifting others up, and she does so with grace. Despite all of the hardships she’s been through in life, she remains hopeful. If we all have just a fraction of the compassion that Judd has, we will find ourselves in a much kinder world.
Empowerment is all about strength and confidence. What I like most about the definition of empowerment is that it’s called “a process.” Like so many things in our lives, building confidence doesn’t happen overnight. The process of empowerment is ongoing, for each individual and for our world as a whole. After attending YWCA’s “Empowered! Women Who Rise Above” event and hearing stories of so many women who pushed through their trauma, it is clear that the process of empowerment WORKS—empowered women empower women. Next time you interact with a coworker, a friend, or your mom, think about what you can do to empower her or what she does to empower you. Take the time to express your gratitude for their support and love. And if you meet someone who needs empowerment, don’t be afraid to be the one who steps in and helps—your actions matter, and you may change someone’s life.