Women’s empowerment

“Because I had been prostituted as a girl, I was living in the red-light area. One day I heard a knock at my door. I opened it. There stood ten policemen. They began to force themselves in and demand free sex. I grabbed a broom and swung it hard, hitting the first one. I kept swinging and swinging until they all fled. Ha! They never came back.”

That Takes Ovaries participant

Why and how That Takes Ovaries is empowering to women: A Personal note from Rivka Solomon

Why am I dedicated to the work of empowering women and girls? The answer is simple:

  • It is important to me how women and girls and all who identify with female gender are doing, all around the world.
  • I care if girls can grow up safe, free of violence and sexual assault.
  • I care if women can develop to their fullest potential without the burden of sexism.
  • I have a passion for women and girls’ rights; a passion for the liberation of women and girls’ everywhere.
  • However, a person must have courage to liberate herself, to live free of gender role stereotypes and free of oppression. This is why I am dedicated to women’s empowerment and this is why That Takes Ovaries holds women and girls’ empowerment events: to spread courage far and wide.

• • •

How does That Takes Ovaries empower women and girls?

We hold our events to create spaces where women, girls and all who identify with female gender can share with each other the times they have been bold and brave – the times they have had courage – because courage is contagious. By sharing our stories aloud we’ll inspire each other to live more bold lives.


We wrote the That Takes Ovaries book, we perform the That Takes Ovaries play and we started our highly participatory That Takes Ovaries events and our Leading a Bold Life events because of this belief that courage is contagious and risk-taking is infectious. After all, when we hear about the bold deeds of other women and girls, it inspires us to act boldly, too.


We wanted our audiences and readers to see how “ordinary” women and girls do gutsy things everyday, because we wanted audiences to think: “Hey, if that woman can do something so outrageous, so courageous, then maybe so can I.”


By celebrating bold, risk-taking women, I hope to encourage others to take risks, because struggle and risk are part of any attempt at personal or social change. The beauty of courage and risk-taking is that they are infectious both between people and within a person. Between people, it is motivating to witness someone else’s courage. Within a person, an individual develops confidence and experience by taking risks and living through them; the more risks she takes in one area of her life, the more she feels able to take them in others. She may start with a gutsy act for pleasure – such as instigating an erotic interlude with messy paints, tracking huge gorillas alone in West Africa,shaving hairy legs in playful stripes, tricking a pimp out of his money (all true stories from the That Takes Ovaries book)– and before long she won’t put up with any timidity, any pussyfooting around in any area of her life.

• • •

Passing the “I’m-a-risk-taker” threshold

Once a girl is initiated and passes the “I’m-a-risk-taker” threshold, and she knows she can act regardless of fear, her life becomes fuller. With newfound confidence, she is willing to address unfair treatment she experiences or witnesses. She is no longer able to tolerate the sight of injustice without trying to address it, because she no longer feels it is beyond her ability to succeed.


She’ll run her sister’s batterer out of town, bawl out a racist cop (even though she is only five years old!), spread her legs hundreds of times to teach doctors how to properly care for women’s gynecological health, mount a pee protest in demand of wheelchair-accessible bathrooms on campus, and save a girl she doesn’t know from being beaten on the side of the highway (again, these are all true stories found in the That Takes Ovaries book). If a woman lives her life in a more daring mode all the time, then there will be no question whether she will stand up for herself and others when mistreated, and no question she’ll fight back if attacked.


That Takes Ovaries events recognize girls and women who are not afraid to act contrary to how the predominant norms say they should; not afraid to break the rules, act improperly, get dirty. All that is part of leading a “no limits” life. So, what is the main message of our That Takes Ovaries work to empower women and girls? Enjoy being bold, and if that is scary at first, marvel at your ability to walk through fear. Not letting fear stop us in one area of our lives means we are less likely to let it stop us in others, from defending ourselves against a single incident of discrimination to changing the world for the better.

• • •

“According to a new law in my Muslim community, daughters are now to be included in the sharing of inheritance. But when my father died, my brothers planned to take all the money and property for themselves. I went to my sisters hoping we could, as a group,stop our brothers from stealing our share. My sisters did not want to. They feared it would cause conflict within the family. So by myself, without support from anyone in my family, I went to a lawyer. We were ready to bring my case to court with this new law on my side. It was difficult, as I knew no one who had taken these legal steps, and because I feared my family would shut me out if I did. But when my brothers heard about my action, they relented and gave me my share. I won!”

– That Takes Ovaries participant

• • •

“When Zimbabwe first gained its independence in 1980, I was offered a job as a Legal Adviser with the Ministry of Justice. At that time, the legal field was a man’s domain: There were only three women lawyers in the Ministry. My job was to advise on the laws that required change and to assist with the first draft of laws to be enacted. As I worked, I began to feel the proposed legal language was beyond the understanding of ordinary people. I brought this to the attention of the Head of the Department. He was not happy to hear this, especially from a woman. But in time, the legal language became more user-friendly. Still, this was not enough for me: After work I met women’s organisations and explained to them their legal rights and what rights they still had to lobby for. When my boss learned of this he told me to stop. “No,” I said, “After-office hours are mine.” He did not agree, so I resigned. I then fully engaged myself with the women’s organisations. I raised their awareness of their rights and guided them to demand protection of the laws that helped women. Later we formed a group to educate girls to become lawyers.”

– That Takes Ovaries participant