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Empower Within: What Empowerment Means to Me

“Nothing can dim the light that which shines from within.” ~Maya Angelou

The United Nations defines empowerment as “the process of enabling people to increase control over their lives, to gain control over the factors and decisions that shape their lives, to increase their resources and qualities and to build capacities to gain access, partners, networks, a voice, in order to gain control”. The key is that it’s a process and the end outcome is to enable individuals.

We wanted to find out what empowerment means to different women in our own community and what empowers them. Here is what five women had to say!


Tanvi Girotra

Tanvi Girotra is an advisor and trainer for social impact organizations and social, business and political leaders around the world. She is passionate about big and disruptive ideas, women’s leadership, songs with profound lyrics and traveling to the mountains.

What does empowerment mean to you?

“Empowerment to me means having the agency and the audacity to make your own choices and in turn enabling the capacity of others to do so themselves. It means as soon as you find a seat at the table, expand, or even re-build the table so others can join in.”

What empowers you?

“My dad does! Being a man who grew up in a blatantly patriarchal India, he told me stories of female role models and how I was raised to possess the confidence to walk into a room full of foolish men and remind them of their foolishness.”

Dr. Michelle Kameda Smith

Dr. Michelle Kameda Smith is a Neurosurgery Resident.

What does empowerment mean to you?

“Personally, empowerment is an individual’s perception of social/cultural/emotional support provided the form of opportunity, resources, motivation, and accountability that facilitates the development of competence and autonomous success."

What empowers you?

"I feel empowered by all the small and larger acts of community/institutional kindness and selflessness involved in the process of helping myself or another individual reach our life goals.”

Tala Al-Ramahi

Tala is a Media and Communications BA and MA graduate currently working in digital marketing. Her middle eastern background has, in part, inspired her passion for activism and art and the ways in which both might intersect.

What does empowerment mean to you?

“Empowerment, to me, means having the confidence to walk through the world with the ability to use your voice to speak about the issues that interest you, whether they’re social, political, economic, or otherwise. It means advocating for yourself and others to ensure you are heard. People and groups are empowered when they have the opportunity to follow their passions and to participate in discussions about their experiences and interests."

What empowers you?

It’s incredibly empowering to me to see strong and powerful women being unapologetically themselves. It takes a remarkable amount of confidence to own and be proud of every part of yourself, and seeing passionate and influential women speak openly about themselves and their interests makes me feel empowered to use my own voice to do the same.”

Sonia Igboanugo

Sonia Igboanugo is a medical student at the University of Toronto and a recent BHSc &MBDC McMaster graduate. She recently interned at Shift Health, a strategy consulting firm serving the health research and innovation ecosystem. She is passionate about marginalized communities, leadership, and the intersection of health equity and innovation.

What does empowerment mean to you?

“Empowerment to me is the journey which unveils the intrinsic power we each possess. I believe all people have the ability to influence others and create impact. Empowerment facilitates the discovery of this power within ourselves. Through mentorship and spaces like the empower circle, individuals like myself are given a platform to realize our influence and live in this authenticity. That is empowerment - the platform, community and spaces to walk in power."

What empowers you?

"I am empowered by my faith, my mentors, friends and family. I am inspired by the individuals in these circles who allow me to learn from and alongside them in my journey to live a meaningful life. They enable me to dream big, work hard and most importantly serve others.”

Razan Samara

Razan Samara is a Palestinian storyteller living on Turtle Island (near Tkaronto/Toronto). Her work is grounded in elevating diverse community voices and experiences. Her writing has appeared in the Silhouette and Canadian Art Magazine, and she was recognized as Best Journalist at the 2018 Hamilton Independent Media Awards.

What does empowerment mean to you and what empowers you?

“After a lifetime's worth of prostration, the pressure of my grandfather's body worn down his vibrant green prayer mat to grey. As frayed as it was, he relied on it unapologetically. Growing up on foreign land and away from my roots, it took me years of contemplative silences in the Islamic prayer dress to feel as unapologetic as my grandfather. To me, empowerment is challenging the status quo.”


We want to encourage you to reflect upon what empowerment means to you and what empowers you. Share with us in the comment section below or on our social media, using the handle @empower_circle.

Want to contribute? Contact us via this form or E-mail us at and we would love to have you involved!

We would like to thank Tanvi Girotra, Dr. Michelle Kameda Smith, Tala Al-Ramahi, Sonia Igboanugo, and Razan Samara for contributing to this article.

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