How do women perceive power? Reflections from a feminist mentorship researcher

Dah has been with Wedu since 2021 and has led operations for our education funding and mentorship programmes from strength-to-strength, while always centering our community of women leaders. Earlier this year, she took this principle even further by being a co-researcher on a project that uses the World YWCA’s Feminist Consultation Methodology (FCM) to explore how feminist mentorship contributes to building women’s individual and collective power. Grounded on the lived experiences and stories of Wedu mentees and their complex relationship with power, here are her takeaways from the research experience.

Being transparent with the research process and making the participants feel like equals rather than research subjects, as encouraged by the Feminist Consultation Methodology (FCM), made the conversations more dynamic. The perception of power by women was explored, and it was fascinating to hear how women perceive power differently from what is traditionally defined in a male-dominated and patriarchal society where these women were brought up. To women, power goes beyond position, authority, physical strength, or dominance. Women also acknowledge that power can look different in various stages of someone’s life.

Women perceive power as having agency in life and in making decisions. Women bloom to become mighty women when they have agency. Power is to realize the different powers people hold, recognise the privileges we have, and ask ourselves questions on how we can use the power that comes with privileges for others. Women associate power with the refusal to let others define who they are and what they can or cannot become. In a Wedu mentor’s own words, “Power is the awakening of the belief that you matter and what you do matters. Your existence, pain, joy, and growth matter.”  To women, power has a lot to do with their internal self-awareness and expressing it in meaningful and impactful ways.

“Power is the awakening of the belief that you matter and what you do matters. Your existence, pain, joy, and growth matter.”

Women feel powerful when they:

  • Are able to say no very firmly without hesitation because they care about their well-being, and they believe that doing so makes them feel whole. 
  • Realise they can change their lives and those of others.
  • Have the agency to make their own decisions over their body, future, career and family.
  • Proactively respond to challenges by being innovative with solutions and not letting the challenges hinder them.
  • Pay forward by utilizing their knowledge and skills with other women instead of gatekeeping them either intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Inspire other people to take up space and sign up for what they are passionate about.
  • Can speak up against any form of discrimination in the society they live in.
  • Are self-dependent in accomplishing things, reaching their personal and professional goals, and facing problems as well as challenges on their own.
  • Advocate for changes with people who are in positions of power.
  • Acknowledge and have the courage to ask for help in times of need.

Activating the power within themselves is as important as taking action to make changes possible for them and the people around them. Women shared that mentorship plays a significant role in helping them realize their potential and strengths and taking steps to translate them into reality. In doing so, women have the power to unshackle themselves from constraints imposed on them by themselves, others, and the community. 

At Wedu, our decade of experience facilitating one-on-one mentorship has proven to us that mentoring is the most sustainable way to support women in achieving their changemaking goals. To date, we have successfully matched 2,000+ mentorship pairs and facilitated over 80,000 hours of mentorship dedicated to strengthening women’s leadership capabilities and sustaining them in their leadership journeys. Help us reach more women leaders by giving here:

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