What Is the Connection between Self-Help Groups and Women's Empowerment?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Self-help groups and women’s empowerment often go hand-in-hand as regular meetings help women achieve valuable support and encouragement toward personal growth. Peer-to-peer support is often used in psychotherapeutic treatment settings to facilitate the sharing of experiences and self-help strategies in a safe, nurturing environment. Likewise, self-help groups and women’s empowerment are related as women are able to come together in groups to effectively explore different self-help techniques and strategies in order to learn how to apply these tips to their personal and professional lives.

Women’s empowerment is often addressed in self-help books and specific self-help programs. While these may be effective when used individually or even led by a trained therapist, group support is often preferred by some women. In many cases, women deliberately approach self-improvement via the use of an individual therapist or life coach, while also simultaneously reading personal development books and engaging in self-help groups.

As is often the case, self-help groups and women’s empowerment sessions are not always formally planned. Women may naturally find themselves coming together on their own as friends to engage in regularly sharing self-help strategies. Often, this happens when friends and neighbors have shared experiences, such as domestic violence, social discrimination or particular family issues.

Individual women’s support groups may be facilitated by a professional social worker, a therapist or a life coach. Special organizations which exist for the primary purpose of empowering women may also host groups that are led by staff members who have no formal training, but are passionate about helping women acquire assertive skills. Often, a self-help support group is also led by one or more women who have passed through trying circumstances and are determined to help other women do the same.

Often, the most effective self-help groups and women’s empowerment programs are those that create an environment where women feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas. While a self-help program may have a structured format, ample time for conversation and an interchanging of ideas allows women to discover or rediscover their own voice and power. Groups may also be held in a variety of locations, such as a community center, a member’s home, a conference room or a more public setting, such as a restaurant. Regardless of the meeting facility, however, a respect for the privacy of individual members and the personal information that some may share is equally important to the overall success of self-help groups and women’s empowerment meetings.

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Discussion Comments

pastanaga

@pleonasm - I do think that there should be more groups that focus particularly on women's empowerment though. I mean, it is a statistical fact that we still have a long way to go until we reach real equality in society. Women are often targets of violence and abuse. A self help group that examines that kind of experience and helps women to support each other would be a good thing.

pleonasm

@croydon - I think a lot depends on who is running the group, or at least who the core people are. If the person running the group really knows what they are doing, and if they have the right kind of vibe, then the group will be wonderful. It's a personal preference thing too. A great group for one person might not be so great for someone else.

I know, for example, that some women might be uncomfortable with the whole idea of women's empowerment, because they just prefer not to focus on gender at all.

croydon

I think self help groups can be a wonderful thing, but you've got to make sure you've found the right one. One of my friends used to go to a self help group for eating disorders and she told me that the people involved could almost be competitive in the way they talked about their eating habits, which didn't help her at all.

I've also heard of women who are so desperate for people to like them, they will make things up at a self help group in order to fit in. Now, this is obviously not the intention of the groups, but for some people this is going to be the reality. You've just got to be sure that it's the kind of place that is actually going to help you.

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