Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures: Invest in women and girl’s leadership
International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world as a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions. It is also an occasion for reflection, as we look ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await the future generation of women and girls. It is an important time for many – one that should be yearlong.
We would like to thank Gender Across Borders and CARE for inviting us to participate in their Third Annual Blog for International Women’s Day event! Our Team at The Women Worldwide Initiative was especially keen on participating in this year’s theme about how connecting and empowering girls inspires our future, as it is fundamental to our organization’s mission: to connect, inspire and educate women and girls!
How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?
INVEST IN WOMEN AND GIRL’S LEADERSHIP
Strengthening the lives and communities of women and girls worldwide should be the priority of all governments, community organizations, international development institutions and global citizens. As we like to say at TWWI, “empower a girl, and you empower a nation.” As many of us know, and many do not, the investment in women is a significant one as women can lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty if given the right resources and support. Women are powerful change-makers, and they need to be given the opportunity to effect change.
Investing in women and girl’s leadership is essential to achieving gender equality worldwide. Meaningful participation of women is still lacking at all levels of key fields such as politics, government, media and business – and yet, women make up at least 50% of the global population! The most obvious examples of this disparity are the shortage of women in senior positions within their companies, and the misrepresentative portrayals of women and girls in the media. We need to encourage our women to push into these positions! As women, we need to all get involved in the political process. I am not suggesting we all become politicians, but we need to vote to get our women leaders elected. Imagine the positive changes we will see for women’s rights – which are human rights – when we increase the number of female world leaders. It will be remarkable.
When we talk about the actions and positions we want women to reach for, we are also inherently talking about the girls who will one day become those women. One of the most holistic, high-impact and sustainable ways in which we can invest in girl’s leadership is through mentorship programs that empower young women by having them think critically about themselves, their identity and their goals, while breaking down negative messages fed to them by society and the media. Mentorship programs that partner a strong focus on self-confidence building and leadership skills, with technological tools and critical resources, will take on the current crisis of our female youth head on. Social media has done wonders for the girl’s voice, and they should be encouraged to keep speaking up – we are listening, girls!
THE POWER OF MENTORSHIP
Our mentorship program, Young Women Rock!, supports young women of color in low-income
communities in New York City to make informed decisions for themselves in the face of severe societal pressure, and illustrating that they have resources available to them to make smart decisions and achieve their dreams. We started our program in 2012 and are excited about the honesty of the mentees and their eagerness to be a part of something greater than themselves. It is inspiring! After years of mentoring young women in under-served communities, experiencing gender-based discrimination, and traveling to countries such as Indonesia, Colombia and Iran among others, I feel that the key to connecting, inspiring and educating girls is to give them a place to express their voice. All girls need to be reminded that they have a unique and important voice, so that they use it, loudly and proudly!
If we are to truly change the course of gender inequality in this world, we must take this opportunity – the opportunity of incredible women leaders, organizations and voices who are all rising to the surface – to back our commitment to empowering women and girls around the world and eradicating gender inequality with actions and resources, and include the voices of women and girls in the design of effective solutions. They know what they need, and we know what they need – we just need to provide it!
Continue to celebrate and empower our women and girls! I am sure more ideas and thoughts on inspiring girls and our futures will arise out of Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit 2012!
Founder & Executive Director
The Women Worldwide Initiative
Beyond International Women’s Day, we want you to take a step towards empowering girls and inspiring our future generation of female leaders by learning about some of the most effective and innovative women and girl-empowerment organizations that we truly admire:
Some interesting facts to take with you:
- Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves. – DOVE Beauty Campaign
- Globally 70% of girls, who feel pressure to be beautiful from ‘friends’, have avoided social activities compared to only 46% of girls who feel no pressure to be beautiful. – DOVE Beauty Campaign
- White males continue to dominate CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC– 67% of guests are male, 84% are white. – Media Matters for America
- In developing countries, nearly one out of every five girls who enrolls in primary school does not complete her primary education. – USAID
- Of the 72 million primary school aged children who do not attend school worldwide, 57 percent are girls; in addition, girls are 4 percent less likely than boys to complete primary school. – USAID
- In developing countries, 1 in 61 women die during pregnancy and childbirth; in least developed countries, 1 in 17 die. – USAID
- Seventy-two percent of the world’s 33 million refugees are women and children. –USAID
- International research consistently finds that women are more likely to be beaten, raped, or killed by a current or former partner than by any other person, with most studies estimating that 20 to 50 percent of women experience partner violence at some point in their lives. – USAID
- Approximately 80% of transnational trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. – USAID
- Trafficking in women and girls for forced labor and sexual exploitation grew rapidly between 1995 and 2005, largely as a result of war, displacement, and economic and social inequities between and within countries. – USAID