What do the words equity, empowerment and engagement really mean? In our new blog series, we explore the work being carried out through our unique partnership with Generation Unlimited and UNICEF’S U-Report, through the voices of the women and girls leading it. The series seeks to add to discussions that challenge traditional, top-down approaches to themes of equity, empowerment and engagement. Time and time again, we see young people understood as ‘beneficiaries’ rather than leaders or partners of change. Our blog contributors look at this issue from different perspectives. We hope you enjoy them.
One of the main reasons we advocate for women empowerment’s is to make it possible for women to do anything men can do either professionally or not. Over the years, women have been subjected to taking the minor roles at home, school or even at work.
One huge challenge facing girls is the insecurity and unwillingness to take the lead caused by low self-esteem. According to the Dove Real Beauty Campaign, 42% of first to third-grade girls want to be thinner, and 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies - and this number increases to 78% by the age of 17.
So how then do women overcome their insecurities and take the lead? The answer is to redefine their mindset and open up societies’ understanding of what it means to be good leader. We need to develop girls' ability to recognise that they are qualified to take on leadership roles and embrace the challenges as they come.
Women who are taking the lead are performing excellently in different industries. Some of these women include Chimamanda Adichie and Malala Yousafzai – as well as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Sherly Sandberg to name just a few! These women have used their platform and leadership skills and qualities to create positive impact in their communities and the world, at large.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian American writer, renowned public speaker, novelist and an international bestseller of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americana and We Should All Be Feminist. Following her 2013 TED Talk ‘We Should All be Feminist’ which was later used by Dior for a series of slogan T-shirts and distributed in book format in 2015 to every 16-year-old in Sweden. Her influence has empowered and impacted girls and young women positively all around the world to be feminist.
Malala Yousafzai is an education advocate in Pakistan and international activist who fights for girls and young women's rights and education. She believes every girl deserves an opportunity to be free, safe and have quality education. Because of this, she founded Malala Fund - a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve the future that she chooses; where every girl can learn and lead. In recognition of her work with the Malala Fund, she became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate after receiving the Novel Peace Price in December 2014.
As a young woman who has had the privilege to visit different communities to train girls, young women and adult leaders on different Guiding and leadership programmes, I know we have so much potential to offer to the world but that we are simply limited by our circumstances.
Through the World Association of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts’ 'Her World, Her Voice' programme in Nigeria, young women have been taking the lead and impacting their communities. For example, in Nigeria, over 250 new Unit Leaders were trained on leadership and the use of the Guiding curriculum to help train new Brownies and Girl Guides. These leaders are taking the lead and impacting their communities by recruiting and training other girls, young women and leaders. They are taking the lead and serving as role models in their community.
“I joined [Guiding] in May 2021 in my neighbourhood (Ilasamaja), in Lagos state. I learnt the Guide’s promise, the Guides law and some Guide songs. I also learnt that we girls should be bold in every aspect of our life and learn to be independent. I learnt to do creative things with my hands like bead making, knitting, and weaving hair. My Guiding experience so far has boosted my self-confidence, it makes me not to feel shy anymore and to be bold. And it also helped me to help others in need. I am so excited to be a member of Girl Guides.” --- Ambrose Yolumi (10), Lagos, Nigeria
I believe every single girl deserves the chance to pursue her passion and fulfil her fullest potential. We are all leaders and we need to encourage our girls and women to lead. Both men and women have a role to play in the development and advancement of society.
If we taught our boys to listen to girls, to see them as their equals, everything would change. Women are just as capable and qualified as men to lead. If we give our girls the chance to become the women they’re meant to be, we really can set off a ripple effect that will transform the world.
As a leader, I look forward to an equal world where women run half of our countries and companies, and men run half of our homes. The impact of women taking the lead will not only help the girl child, it will help the whole world.