She Leads Girls & Young Women Reflections and Celebrations
African Girls and Young Women have always been victims of dominant gender norms that relegate them as second-class citizens. In seeking to shift dominant patterns of patriarchy over femininity and broaden pathways of change, FEMNET through the She Leads Pan Africa consortium held a reflection meeting. The meeting assessed the voice autonomy of Girls and Young Women (GYW) while celebrating the milestones of the first year of implementation.
The She Leads Pan African consortium partners including FEMNET, TDH, Plan AULO, ECPAT International, DCI Africa Regional Desk, HoAYN and GIMAC Young Women Network held a meeting in Kampala, Uganda from the 15th to 19th of August 2022. The meeting was attended by the 7 Pan Africa GYW Advisory Board Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The meeting set strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of the GYW agency in African Countries for the year 2023. The meeting also enabled GYW to showcase their achievements in the past year at local, sub-national and national arenas while inferring to the opportunities at the regional level.
Addressing the invisibility of Vulnerable GYW
The meeting reflected on the impediments that limited gender equality and highlighted the invisible challenges endured by GYW. The GYW underscored that girls and young women with disabilities are invisible and marginalized within the communities. The GYW in particular noted that young women living with disabilities endure innumerable human rights violations and are more than twice as likely to experience physical, sexual, emotional and psychological violence. To this end the GYW proposed that the project should adjust the scope and also include GYW living with disabilities in the She Leads governance structure so that the programme as a whole reflects the efforts of amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable and most marginalized.
Retrospectively, Bernice Dodoo from Ghana, said that “Something for us without us is against us,” while Phenny Ogembo from Kenya underscored that “we have hundreds and millions of experiences all we need is a chance to showcase our talents”. Both young women lauded the need to engage African GYWin all their diversity. Collectively the GYW stated that county governments have made efforts towards empowering women and girls within the development agenda, however, they pointed out that their voices have been somewhat muted whenever decisions were being made.
The Affirmation of Power and Voice Agency
In seeking to affirm commitment to reverse the exclusion of giving the power back to the girls, the discussions also noted that there was a subtle vassalizing of activities that warranted attention. In particular the budgets accorded for their engagements in the digital space and the need for more capacity building in communication so that they can shape their own destiny and transform ideational from yester narratives of GYW subordination.
The She Leads Pan African consortium partners will continue to engage with the GYW to amplify their voices and reclaim their rights in regional and national spaces. In seeking to sustain their agency as well advance their skills and talent, consolidated efforts will be ignited to advance the #ISpeak4Myself campaign.