Teach girls to flourish, not just endure

Wanjala Wafula
Posted October 11, 2018 from Kenya
With Child brides in Northern Malawi


By Wanjala Wafula                                                                

I am a resolute supporter of Resolution 66/170 which declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child for purposes of recognizing girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world. Under this year’s theme, “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”, International Day of the Girl will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability. I have always argued in this third rate column that girls in this part of the world are too often left behind when it comes to acquiring the proficiency they need to be able to get excellent jobs. Here, I zero down to two elucidations that demonstrate promise and which have worked in many other parts of the word. I affirm that we need to urgently adopt competency-based curriculums and foster gender-responsive training.

From a tender age, girls are exposed to societal traditional practices, patterns and environments that shape their understanding of what they need to do to be successful human beings. Patriarchal systems and social and cultural norms promote hierarchal relationship between men, women, girls and boys and governs societal norms and practices. These factors define appropriate behavior or roles for men in relations to women as superior, the main decision makers, controllers of productive resources; even power on girls and women’s bodies as well as their free will.

Gender inequalities remain one of the key drivers of exclusion, marginalization, poverty and death in the region. Masculinities as a set of roles and responsibilities ascribed to boys and men have damaging effects on the lives of girls and women as well as that of boys and men. Gender based violence, violence in school grounds, sexual assault and rape on children and women inside families, refugee and IDP camps as forced child marriages etc are primarily associated with men seeking to enforce power and dominance over girls and women hence letting girls and women to “accept” subservience and playing last preference in society.

In many parts of the African continent, girls are growing up to appreciate informal education more than the formal one and yet key stakeholders including governments and leading gender justice civil society are busy peddling the same Girls survival narrative in their programming. Girls are taught how to survive instead of how to blossom at both individual and collective levels. It is even worse when these teachings are coupled by gender discrimination and negative influences that contribute to creating gender unjust environments at individual, community, institutional and government levels for boys and girls to live a life of dignity.

African women and girls are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities as a result of the lack of relevant training and skills. This has a direct impact on their standards of living, making them vulnerable to negative aspects such as gender-based violence and early marriage. The situation is even more difficult for girls in conflict and post-conflict situations. Indeed, this is evidenced by the huge incidences of school-dropout rates in conflict and post-conflict states in Africa. Data from the United Nations show that of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common. In addition, a World Economic Forum 2017 report on Africa’s workforce highlights that every year for the next three decades, 15-20 million increasingly well-educated young people are expected to join the workforce. What is worrying is that employers across the region identify skills gaps as a major constraint to their ability to compete in the global economy.

It has been my eternal rallying call that girls must be equipped with dexterity that helps them to address masculinities and adopt gender positive attitudes and practices across the board. At community level, gender parity programs must work with citizens and traditional leaders even as they focus on shifting gender stereo types, and changing social norms. At institutional level; let innovation around quality gender transformative programs and communications be designed and implemented with a special focus on men and boys. At government level; civil society networks and alliances should track implementation of laws on gender equality and work with respective governments to end impunity and promote accountability.

The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  of  The  Coexist  Initiative,  a  not  for  profit  synergy  of  men  and  boys 0rganizations  committed  to  eliminating  all  forms  of  Gender  based  violence  in  Kenya and a senior partner at Mululu Consultants Visit    www.coexistkenya.com    or    email    [email protected]‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype: coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254712653322

Comments 7

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Oct 11, 2018
Oct 11, 2018

This is a great article that everyone should read and share.
Good work Wanjala Wafula.

Shatakshi Gawade
Oct 11, 2018
Oct 11, 2018

Skills and training will also lead to financial independence, and thus hopefully empower women and girls. Thank you for sharing!

Oct 11, 2018
Oct 11, 2018

this is a powerful sentence. "Gender based violence, violence in school grounds, sexual assault and rape on children and women inside families, refugee and IDP camps as forced child marriages etc are primarily associated with men seeking to enforce power and dominance over girls and women hence letting girls and women to “accept” subservience and playing last preference in society."
I completely agree with you but what are the solutions from a male perspective, especially in relation to culture?

Jill Langhus
Oct 13, 2018
Oct 13, 2018

Hi there Wafula,

How are you doing? How is your work been going? I'd love to see an update of what you've been focusing on and what you've achieved lately:-)

Hope you're having a great weekend, and doing well:-)

Busayo Obisakin
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Thank you so much for the good work you are doing Wanjala! The girls really need to flourish and not endure, this is the only way they can live a fulfilled lives.
Great job indeed!


Princesse MUHINDO
Oct 17, 2018
Oct 17, 2018

Bonjour Wanjala,
juste de votre avis pour la formation sensible au genre avec intégration dans tout les services et juste avec aussi toutes vos orientations ainsi que mises à jour pour nos domaines courantes. Merci d'avoir partager votre histoire pour la journée internationale de la jeune fille et bienvenue encore une fois de plus sur worldpulse !

Urmila Chanam
Oct 21, 2018
Oct 21, 2018

Dear Wanjala Wafula,

What an incredible article and what a powerful list of recommendations to address the wide skill gap found among women in the workforce! I am deeply grateful for your effort to educate us on this topic especially with what are the solutions. I have been working on gender inequality for sometime now in India and globally through sharing my program updates and findings on World Pulse and perhaps, thats why I appreciate your approach so much. I will certainly reflect on the recommendations you have given to address this issue at different levels. Keep writing, keep informing, keep inspiring.

Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
[email protected]