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