For young girls around the world, knowledge is power and can make a world of difference. Too often female children in developing countries are prematurely taken out of school in order to become domestic workers, young brides, and ultimately, child-mothers. The discontinuation of education for young girls locks them into a place of subordination to and dependence on their male counterparts, where domestic and sexual violence is rampant. In such situations, those ambitious, intelligent girls full of potential no longer have the ability to pursue their dreams. They are denied equal opportunity, and it is devastating. Devastating, not only from a human rights perspective, but also from one of progress. Imagine all the potential doctors, nurses, engineers, researchers, scholars, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and schoolteachers who are deprived of the foundation upon which successful careers are built. However, the girls are not the only ones missing out: these countries forgo a great deal of growth by using only 50% of their resources.
There are a number of initiatives in Africa aimed at empowering girls. In her article, “Denise Duning goes to the causes of poverty, unleashing girl power to create positive change through Let Girls Lead,” writer Stacy Teicher Khadaroo writes on one of these: Let Girls Lead. This is a California-based initiative created by Denise Dunning that offers training and other forms of support to local social entrepreneurs looking to change policies. In Malawi, for example, Let Girls Lead worked alongside Malawi’s Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) to campaign for raising the national marriage age from 15 to 18. Such amazing progress has been made that “In the villages where GENET has already pushed for bylaws to raise the marriage age to 21, parents who try to marry off daughters before then have to sweep the floors at the local school or hospital…” (Teicher Khadaroo, 43). Through this same organization and key partners, a woman in Liberia, Rosana Schaack, was able to develop and help pass Liberia’s Children’s Law, “a landmark guarantee of rights to health care and education, along with other safeguards, with a particular focus on the needs of girls” (Teicher Khadaroo, 44). Both of these initiatives encourage girls to continue their educations, thus, they also help return choice to those disempowered by inequality.
Uganda has taken several steps toward empowering women. For instance, in 1997 the Ugandan government’s first National Gender Policy (NGP) was approved. This groundbreaking policy “increased awareness on gender as a development concern…; influenced… programmes to address gender issues; strengthened parternships for the advancement of gender quality and women’s empowerment and increased impetus in gender activism” (Government of Uganda). The NGP was later revised in 2007 to include more action-oriented plans for fairness and inclusion. Additionally, the government of Uganda recently hosted a meeting of Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development representatives, civil society groups, and invested participants from the both the government and private sector in 2014, which focused on women’s economic empowerment. The attendants made grand suggestions, such as “changing attitudes and opinions about women working outside the home and owning businesses, men actin gin solidarity with women, and one-on-one mentoring programmes for the younger generation” (UN Women). From these examples, one can see that Uganda has made diligent strides toward empowering women through advocacy, collaboration, and political petitioning.