(Week 13): Empowering Women

In this TEDx talk, Halima Hima challenges the way we think about empowering girls and women in rural communities. Hima was selected in 2011 as one of “Africa’s 25 top emerging women leaders under 25 for their commitment to service”.

When we empower women and girls to become leaders and agents of change in their own communities we can help break down cultural and historical barriers that stand in their way.  We can do this by investing in untapped skills of these women, by giving them the resources to achieve their potential.  Education is a major component to making this happen. Many young women in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around the developing world, do not always have ready access to primary and secondary education. The skills that these girls can obtain from primary and secondary education are essential to their future success.

Education gives girls confidence to pursue their goals, and gives them the resources to do so.  It also gives them the confidence to take a stand about issues that matter to them and other women in their community. Women in Malawi have started campaigns against child marriages, and women across sub-Saharan Africa  have advocated for health care and education for women and girls.  This is especially important in underdeveloped countries because women and girls are the most likely to feel the full force of poverty.  Micro-loans and similar programs discussed in earlier weeks try to help create a spirit and means of entrepreneurship in these communities.

Let Girls Lead is just one of the many organizations that seeks to empower young women in developing countries. They offer training and support for young women in the hope to help create a global girl power movement. Among other goals, this group advocates to promote literacy in rural developing communities, and to set the national marriage age at 21.  Let Girls Lead supports more than 600 local and grass-roots organizations.

They help provide services and training to social entrepreneurs around the world.  Let Girls Lead advocates for understanding the social, cultural and legal barriers that exist around discriminatory laws and policies before trying to completely overhaul them.  How to create change for women in the context of their culture and their community on the terms of these women, and providing them with the necessary means to do so.

Empowering Ugandan Women

76% of women were in the labor force in Uganda in 2011, but women in Uganda only own a small fraction of property. Women in Uganda often have substantial economic and social roles compared to many other Sub-Saharan African countries. Despite the large social and economic responsibilities Ugandan women have held in many traditional Ugandan societies, there is still large amount of inequality and strict gender roles that exist for women in Uganda today (Fortune). USAID works in Uganda, recently they assisted female parliamentarians (35% of parliament members in Uganda are females “in achieving the passage of an anti-trafficking bill.  This strengthened their voice to provide greater legal protections for women and children” (USAID).

USAID’s programs around the world try to attain rights for all by:

  • narrowing gender gaps in education and learning
  • creating safe societies where women and girls can live free from violence
  • providing care and treatment services for victims of gender-based violence
  • ensuring women a seat at the table in peace-building, mitigation, and conflict prevention.
  • increasing the participation of women in decision and policy-making at all levels
  • strengthening women’s access to resources and opportunities that will allow them to share more broadly in the benefits of economic growth

Recent research has indicated that HIV infection has decreased as education rates in Africa have increased. Supporting the idea that education and training has been effective in decreasing this critical issue.  As the cost of education costs rise in Africa it has become more and more difficult to continue empowering young girls.  Some suggest to lay a proactive foundation for HIV prevention efforts African governments should invest more in primary and secondary education.

ActionAid International says that formal education can influence vulnerability to HIV in a number of ways:

1. expose girls to HIV and AIDS education which can in turn help prevent HIV

2. affect the social and sexual network for girls

3. influence the level of power within sexual relationships

4,. provide psycho-social benefits for young women, helping them build their self-esteem and the capacity to act on HIV prevention messages in their own lives.

5. lead to better economic prospects, which in turn lead to lifestyle changes that can influence HIV vulnerability.

ActionAid as an organization seeks to

  • assist with access and control of land and natural resources
  • secure basic rights for women and girls
  • create accountability at all levels
  • assist with disaster management and resilience building

ActionAid is able to do this by placing women and girls at the center of their work. They believe that gender equality is the key to poverty eradication, and that women’s rights must be protected and promoted.

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