Empowerment is a process of facilitating, instilling and providing the means for girls to overcome the obstacles they face to attaining full access to their human rights.
Empowerment of girls in Africa is key to their transformation into powerful leaders able to walk in the fullness of their potential. While girls have the ability to address challenges they face, to do so they need external support hence it’s important to provide the means for girls to stand up in exploitative situations and claim their rights.
Given the many obstacles girls face it is imperative that as the society we develop a critical mass movement at the grassroots level that is vibrant and well coordinated to break the cycle of poverty and violence. Such programs will help in promoting a culture of prevention and provide girls with the life skills necessary to be self-sustaining and independent.
Empowerment is a lifetime investment that girls will benefit from hence bettering their lives, communities, nations and the world at large. Girls who have emerged as leaders need support with training, resource mobilization and setting themselves up to implement effective programs that promote their development.
A critical approach is needed to stop gross violations of their rights and the silent sufferings of girls as a result of harmful cultural practices. Statistics indicate that 50% of girls in Africa are sexually enslaved, out of school and might not live beyond 34 years due to poverty, HIV/AIDS and violence.
While African women have made considerable gains in the political, economic and social development of the continent they are still widely marginalized within the corridors of power and when applying for jobs and continue to face social exclusion from education to their inability to own land and property.
Issues of child marriage, harmful traditional practices and gender-based violence also rank highly among the scourges that have held back the progress of most African women.
Education has long been argued as one of the key solutions to ensuring women and girls gain access to equal access to political and socio-economic power in society. However inadequate funds, tradition and culture in particular strong cultural norms that favour the education of boys over girls as well as early marriages continue to be some of the causes of lack of education for women in Africa.
In 2011 UNICEF estimated that 31 million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school and according to such statistics one in four women globally are still illiterate with most of the living in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is reported that in 47 out of 54 African countries, girls have less than a 50% chance of completing primary school.
Without investing in the education of girls or providing unrestricted access to political and economic opportunities without social freedoms such as sexual and reproductive health rights, an entire half of the continent’s population left out of Africa’s development agenda. This affects progress in turn and perpetuates poverty.
Women and girls need to be considered as agents of change to enable them participate in the economic, social and political development within their community and have equal access to health information and services, education, employment and political positions.