Women have gone through so much since the dawn of time to be recognized as strong, capable beings. With feminist movements continuing to grow and more people fighting for the rights of women of every color and creed, it seems that a good part of the world is starting to acknowledge and celebrate the prominence of powerful women. Last year, we were graced with the likes of Wonder Woman on the big screens and various forms of activism such as the #MeToo movement in the media that inspired many girls, old and young, to embrace their strengths as well as their gentler and more vulnerable side.

It seems that such examples are today’s idea of what ‘strong women’ are. Over the years, there has been a continuous shift in that idea itself. Back then, women had very little room within their gender expectations to excel. Cut to a hundred years later, when women had to be brash and masculine in order to be considered remotely ‘strong’ and make their names in the world. Nowadays, more people are having open discussions about womanhood and approach the diversity of characters more openly.

Balinese women carrying offerings on their heads.

However, I believe that the debate of what is and is not considered strong and progressive is, to an extent, rather obtuse as it misses the point –it isn’t about how many supporting characteristics they tick off of the list, but rather how they managed to adapt to their situation and rise above the challenges. If there’s anything we could learn from centuries worth of women’s struggles for equal rights, it’s that women could not be generalized and put into boxes. The development of female characters in films and feminist activisms in popular culture is a cause for celebration, but that doesn’t mean that our work is done.

A good friend of mine once said that, “Where I come from, a progressive woman is a woman who can and does go to school.” For people like you and me, school is a mandatory step that all of us had to take. It was but an uneventful phase in our lives. But, for those hailing from small villages like my friend did, it means so much more. It’s a small step, but a good step towards opportunities that wouldn’t be available for them otherwise. In many of these cases, most women are stuck in the same old rigid role that restricts them from any kind of personal development. It’s a rather odd paradox as the community also heavily relies on women’s care, on the flip side. By attending school, these women have the chance to not only develop themselves, but to develop their family and surroundings.

Early education teacher in Malang, East Java.

As a form of gratitude for all the learning opportunities we have received and everything we gained from it, we can share what we’ve learned and provide the similar opportunities for them. With the collective skills from both ourselves and these underprivileged women, I believe we would be on the right track to empower women in a way that celebrates both their strengths and weaknesses.

Go Global Indonesia offers volunteering programs that deal with women empowerment for both local and international participants. For further information, please contact [email protected].