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Spiritual Empowerment And Women - Meenakshi Jha, June 21, 2001
Self-awareness and spiritual empowerment hold the key to freedom and raising the status of women in the society. Economic independence and the financial security that comes with it, no doubt, do impart self-confidence to a woman. However if the woman is not well equipped with self-awareness and spiritual power within herself, it is difficult to sustain the confidence that comes with a good education and a good job. That is the reason why it is not uncommon to find well qualified and well educated women and women holding powerful jobs weakening and losing their self esteem when faced with a difficult mother-in-law at home or an unreasonable employer at work.
What is spiritual empowerment?
The word 'spiritual' frightens and scares many away as the word conjures images of 'saffron robes' and 'religious ceremonies and practices'. However spirituality has nothing to do with any of these. Spirituality is all about awakening the 'consciousness' that we all humans have been gifted with. The consciousness to recognize the 'truth' about self, about relationship of self with the people and the nature around. This consciousness helps us to understand and become aware of ourselves and all things that have an impact on our well-being and our inner peace and happiness. This awareness is empowering because, it is the beginning of taking care of our own self as well as understanding others in a better way. Only when you know who you really are and what you really want for your ultimate happiness can you begin to make choices consciously to create realities that result in your happy self. And only then you begin to appreciate the need of others to be happy.
Why does this consciousness need to be 'awakened'?
Because unfortunately most of the prevailing systems of the society whether it is education or any other social or cultural practice have all been created without giving due regard to this very valuable aspect of 'spirituality' or the needs of the 'soul'. And as a result, our minds are conditioned (by the current educational system, traditional parenting, religious preaching) to think in a way that instead of getting us in touch with our 'self' does a good job of taking us further away from our 'self'. The further away you are from your 'inner truth' or your 'true self', more powerless you become. And therefore more vulnerable to exploitation and all things that are capable of eroding your self-confidence and self-esteem.
How can we empower women spiritually?
Ideally the process must begin at an early age. All girls at an early age must be instilled with the qualities of speaking their mind. They must be encouraged from younger years to think for themselves and think about who they are, what do they really want to do and enjoy doing. Works of literature that contain stories of men and women who can inspire the attitudes of courage, rising above social and personal hurdles and circumstances should be made available and read to them.
The role of education:The educational institutions currently include within their curriculum so many types of courses and subjects - many of them never even get used or applied or practiced in the day-to-day life. The same old courses and subjects are being taught year after year since several decades. Have we gained anything in terms of personal and social change from the current educational system? Then why can't we scrap the existing system that has failed to deliver anything worthwhile either for the economy or for the society at large? Why can't we include 'spiritual empowerment' courses at the high school and even at university level, which will stand the women in good stead in leading their lives? Why can't we revamp and overhaul the current system and re-think and re-design a new educational system that makes best use of the growing and learning years of girl students by providing them with a sound mental and spiritual foundation that not only helps the women become economically independent enabling her to contribute to the economy but also equipping her with a thinking process where she can fight injustice of any kind and magnitude during her lifetime on her own and without having to depend upon anyone for support.
Educational institutions have the resources, the power and the opportunity to effect a positive change within a society. It is a shame that so far they have only been used as a factory that produces graduates in mass numbers year after year. These young graduates go out into the world and do not think twice before joining or becoming victim of corrupt social system thereby nurturing and keeping the wheel of the corrupt system in motion and in the process continuing to crush the weak and fattening the greedy in the society.
If the schools and colleges were to fully exploit their potential and power, we can effect many positive changes. We can strike the problems that prevail today at their root and develop effective and long lasting changes - such changes by their very nature are contagious and are capable of setting a chain reaction of many more positive changes in the society.
This is not impossible to do. We have seen how several leaders of freedom movement (of India) utilized educational system to inspire the youth with the spirit of nationalism and patriotism the result of which was that the freedom movement multiplied in great numbers. These leaders instilled the spirit of patriotism and self respect in the youth of their times by motivational and inspiring speeches, writings and poems.
I believe a movement along the same lines is what is needed- a freedom movement - only difference is this time it needs be aimed at the women who have to be freed from the enemies within (their minds) - for freedom from the mental conditioning and beliefs that make the women powerless is what freedom is all about.
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