Oasis is a movement led by women and motivated to empower women around the world. On International Women’s Day, we caught up with Jill Rowe – Oasis Ethos and Formation Director – for a 60-second chat on what the Oasis values and model mean for gender equality and female empowerment.
Oasis often talks about its ‘9 Habits’. How do these encourage gender equality and empowerment?
The 9 Habits invite everyone in Oasis to a particular way of life – a life characterized by being compassionate, considerate, self-controlled, patient, honest, humble, hopeful, forgiving and joyful. To live this way is no easy option. Instead it is the way that enables us all to become the very best version of ourselves, whoever we are.
The 9 Habits unsettle our preconceived ideas and our hidden or unspoken assumptions about others and ourselves. They enable us to see each person we encounter as being of equal value to us and, as a result, the way we behave towards them and the way that we treat them is transformed. Putting people down, ridiculing them, not including them, thinking them incapable, less worthy, insignificant, unimportant, second best, likely not to amount to much, viewing them as unacceptable – all of these behaviours and attitudes are taken off the table completely as is the narrative or story that perpetuates them.
The 9 Habits are firmly rooted in a different story; a story in which everyone is included, making a contribution and reaching their God-given potential, and able to become the best version of themselves. We cannot do this alone. We need one another. Whoever we are. The 9 Habits show us how to be encouragers and enablers of one another in this adventure.
The 9 Habits bring courage to those who have lacked confidence to be who they are. They bring challenge to those who for too long have dominated others and used their power to coerce or manipulate. They bring hope to those who haven’t ever been able to dream of a different future. And they bring empowerment to those whose lives have been characterised by chaos and uncertainty.
Thinking of your projects and communities around the world, how does the Oasis Community Hub model encourage and facilitate female empowerment?
Across the majority of communities that we are a part of, it is the women who are the powerhouse. When women realise their value their confidence soars and then everything becomes not only possible but probable. Women become the catalysts for change in their communities and also in their families.
At the core of the Oasis Hub Model is a belief in relationship – that we are interdependent – that we can only become who we are truly created to be through our engagement with and learning from others. And this is what happens in and through the Oasis Hubs. Women gather, and they imagine, and they begin to believe that they can make change happen in their own lives and the lives of others too. It normally all begins with a very simple phrase – ‘Yes you can. You can do that. Give it a go.’ You see, for many women they have believed that it isn’t their place to lead or imagine.
For a lot of women, whether as a result of intentional choice or more likely a lack of choice or freedom, have found themselves to be passive recipients of what life throws at them. But when they hear a ‘Yes you can’ and the opportunity to make stuff happen then that is when change kicks in. And women never keep change to themselves which is good news for everybody. Muhammed Yunus said ‘You can only build what you can imagine’. The Oasis Hub model invites us all to imagine something different, to see injustice defeated, hopelessness ended, exclusion removed. Look at any Hub and it is the women leading the way as they imagine such a different future for themselves, their families and their communities.
If you could give one message to women around the world on International Women’s Day, what would it be?
I am very grateful that I was raised to believe that gender was not a stereotype for me to inhabit. Instead, as a girl, and as a woman, I was and am to be me, and never allow anyone else to force on me any of their preconceived ideas, expectations or assumptions about who I should be or what role I should play. At no point was I to ever think that being a woman was about residing in the shadows. I therefore feel a great responsibility to help and support other women, whatever their age, to come to know and understand the truth of this for themselves; to have the courage to do what others think they can’t, to imagine outside of every stereotype, to know their purpose and their identity, and to reach their God-given potential – to be strong, and courageous and bold and determined and to rise up and take their place.