The concept of girl empowerment has been a topic of discussion for centuries. Girl empowerment refers to the human rights of girls to determine their own choices, in addition to the right to influence social change for themselves and the world around them.
Girl empowerment is necessary for a better world, as no society can thrive if half of its population are denied their fundamental human rights. According to Thomas Sankara ‘The revolution and women’s liberation goes together. We do not talk of women’s empowerment as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution.” Empowered and emancipated girls produce emancipated and empowered women.
Even though girl empowerment is a hot global issue at the moment, it is a topic that has been in existence for centuries and has led to a lot of strong movements such as the women suffrage movement in the 19th and early 20th century, the sexual revolution in the 1960s, and the third wave feminism which started in the early 1990s.
WHAT ACTS CONSTITUTE AS GIRL EMPOWERNMENT?
- Accepting the viewpoints of girls and making an effort to seek them out.
- Allowing them the chance to redefine gender roles.
- Encouraging them to make their own choices.
- Allowing girls to make decisions that determine the outcome of their life.
- Raising awareness on issues that affect girls.
- Giving girls access to literacy and skills training.
- Allowing women to participate in politics and the economy.
- Removing cultural norms that harm and inhibit the growth of girls.
- Understanding the differences between biological and gender roles.
WHY THE CONCEPT OF GIRL EMPOWERNMENT REMAINS IMPORTANT
Despite centuries of activism and endless debates on whether equality has been achieved, the fact remains that the world is still a dangerous and unequal place for girls. According to UNICEF, ‘violence against women and girls is still not only common but accepted.’ For instance, in 2016 UNICEF data shows that women and girls constitute for about 70 percent of sex trafficking victims and about 1 in 20 girls aged 15 to 19 has experienced the violent act of rape in their lifetime. In some communities, girls are still denied the right to education, forced into having kids they do not want, physically and mentally abused, and things like ritual killings and female genital mutilation are still a thing. This goes to show that although women have been given a little more rights like the rights to vote or work outside the home, the complete emancipation and empowerment of women have not been achieved.
The UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that ‘Twenty five years ago, the world’s government made a commitment to women and girls, but they have made partial good on that promise. While the world has mustered the political will to send many girls to school, it has come embarrassingly short on equipping them with the skills and support they need not only to shape their own destinies, but to live in safety and dignity.’
HOW WE CAN ALL CONTRIBUTE TO GIRL EMPOWERNMENT
- Create safe places for girls: It doesn’t matter how many structures are put in place if young girls are not safe everywhere, from their homes to the school and the streets. Unless we create a safe place for girls to exist without fear or harm, we won’t be able to move forward on this issue.
- Re-evaluate cultural and gender roles: Beliefs such as, “women belong in the kitchen” or harmful cultures such as female genital mutilation or early marriage must be eradicated before we can finally completely empower girls.
- Review toxic beauty standards: Beauty standards may seem insignificant but it is a very important issue that needs to be addressed if we want to empower young girls. Toxic beauty standards cost girls their self-esteem and even their lives.
- Expand opportunities for girls and women: We need to set up more opportunities for women so they can contribute to nation building and develop their interests.
We cannot achieve an equitable world without the empowerment of young girls. The world needs to move forward, and we cannot move forward by leaving behind half of the population.
~ By Hauwa Saleh