Women Empowering Women

By Mary Jackson Young, Women's Wilderness Winter Program Intern

I am a new intern at the Women's Wilderness Institute receiving graduate credit for my masters degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College and wealth of new knowledge and experience in the field of women's specific adventure programming. I come to TWWI with a unique background of adventure education and motherhood, and through both I have had the support, guidance and inspiration of many women, good friends old and new. Reflecting on my past outdoor adventures with women, such as climbing, trekking, and traveling, I have noticed a parallel between my personal and professional adventure experiences and the role of a doula. According to it's Greek definition a doula is a woman who serves, though not in the sense of forced servitude. In it's modern westernized connotation, a doula is a woman who supports another woman through the process of childbirth (I will always be thankful for my doula at my son's birth). Through emotional and physical support a doula is an advocate for a pregnant and laboring woman. A doula prepares a mother with tools for an informed and conscious decision making process throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Through this process of educating, supporting and facilitating an authentic voice of her client, a doula essentially empowers women through the experience of childbirth. This is where I find the correlation: a doula embraces the same values of transformational leadership that hold true here at TWWI - empowering women through contexts which allows them to expand their own capabilities.

In essence, we are all doulas in the field of adventure education, whether we are 7 summit guides, a NOLS instructor, or teaching friends how to rock climb. We help to create an experience for participants, facilitate goals and teach information and tools to help them make the best choices for themselves in their experience and the future, which is ultimately unique for each person. We empower them to make personal decisions in a sometimes challenging environment or situation, often with in the context of a group. It is through the development of the ability to make the best choices at an individual level and to take care of themselves for the best, that participants are empowered to grow and make informed and conscious choices based on their desires and needs for their future. Of course empowerment may come in many forms with mixed gender groups, however women-only groups create unique experiences to explore what is innately female in terms of personal and group development.

I'm in my second semester of my graduate program, which includes reading a lot of articles and books, taking notes, and writing very long scholarly papers. My life is busy with a preschooler, balancing passions of adventure and responsibility, and all the wonderful, challenging, and complicated experiences and emotions of life that go along with all of that. My TWWI experience and research on women's empowerment has come at a time in my life when I realize how truly important it is that all women are doulas for each other. Importantly we need to support each other to be empowered and authentic, whether we are in the field, childbirth, or figuring out the many paths of life. It can be a supportive cheer from below a climb, an understanding hug when frustrated, or a simple I believe in your power to be you.