International Girls in ICT Day – 2021
What is ICT?
Information Communication Technology (ICT) is a broader term for Information Technology (IT), which refers to all communication technologies such as the internet, cell phones, computers, wireless networks, software, video conferencing, middleware, social networking and any other media application, and services that allow users to retrieve, store, transmit, access and manipulate information in the digital format. It also involves media technology convergence such as telephone and computer networks.
According to UNESCO, 7 million people work in the ICT sector but only 30% are women. Not only this, only 6% of CEOs at the top 100 global technology companies are women. Women in Europe hold only 11.2% of leadership roles in the tech world. UNESCO shows that a market of up to USD 50-70 billion will open up in the ICT sector if gender equality is achieved. This means more women and girls need to be encouraged to go into ICT.
Why should girls go into ICT?
There are numerous job opportunities in the ICTs. The sector gives room for a wide range of ICT talents due to the number of job seekers possessing the required technical skills and the digital skills needed by employers. What this means is that women who are highly qualified in technical fields have a notable number of opportunities available to them.
Furthermore, ICT companies realise that workforce diversity is good for business and as such are working to attract and promote women. The ICT sector is male-dominated, particularly at senior levels. The companies and organisations are therefore working towards increasing the number of women represented in the sector because when there are more women at the top, financial performance is positively impacted.
By going into ICT and supporting the education of women and girls in ICT, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being supported. Particularly, SDG 5 seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through, among other domains ICTs. Jobs in the tech sector not only lift women out of poverty but creates a gender-balanced sector that provides more fulfilment at the mid and high level of their careers.
Importantly, technology is the language of the future. Therefore, a background in technology enables girls and women to have a role in developing the future. Technology is not restricted to engineers but cuts across various backgrounds from professions such as economics, health, philosophy and production which broadens its applicability.
Myths surrounding girls in ICT
The tech environment is not conducive or appealing to women:
While truly the tech sector isn’t as appealing to women as it should be, ICT is an exciting, well rewarded, respected career option and is highly lucrative. More women are needed in the sector to change the tech’s culture and image.
You can’t pursue a career in ICT without having a tech degree:
A lot of digital career options do not require a STEM degree. Many companies just generally look out for people who genuinely want to succeed, have a desire to learn, and possess transferable skills. This means that online courses or a coding club can make a whole world of difference in starting a career in ICT.
There’s no career progression so you’ll likely be stuck with writing codes:
Working in ICT doesn’t always equate to working for a tech company. Every sector incorporates technology in all aspects of business today which means there are wide roles and numerous opportunities.
You can't have a family life, social life and balance a successful tech career:
The truth is that every career requires compromise and finding a suitable work/life balance meaning that a career in ICT isn’t different. With good time management skills, positive mindset, and determination, the right balance will be created.
How to encourage girls to go into ICT
1. Girls can be encouraged to go into ICT by creating events and seminars that are specifically designed to inspire girls to pursue their dream of becoming an ICT professional and encourage careers in ICT fields. This involves a fusion of classroom learning, hands-on experience, and interactions with females in the ICT sector to assure girls of the opportunities inherent in the sector.
2. Teachers also need to take girls on a journey through the digital world from Word to Excel to coding and so on so they can know about the vastness of the sector. This will assure girls that they will not be confined. Furthermore, the use of contexts that can be found in the real world should be encouraged. This means getting girls’ hands-on things that can be replicated in real life such as creating films, creating vlogs, and so on.
3. Another way to encourage girls to go into ICT is to create school clubs in societies that are designed to encourage girls to engage actively in IT. It also allows them to develop their tech skills by partaking in challenges specifically tailored to their interests such as sports, dance, and music. This will have an impact on their confidence and self-esteem.
4. Lastly, ICT education needs to be started early. This means starting from elementary school and putting other noted factors in place to sustain interest into adulthood.
See Mansata Kurang an award winning Gambian woman in Tech
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Inequality of Women and Girls in Science
All over the world, less than 30% of researchers in the science field are women. This shows that there is still a gross underrepresentation of female students and employees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related fields (UNESCO, 2019). Less than a third of female students go on to study higher education courses in science subjects like engineering and maths. Furthermore, women in STEM fields publish less than their male counterparts and often receive less pay see weforum.org, 2020.
Women and Girls in Science - Saharan Africa
A UNESCO report estimates that In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of researchers are women with a gender disparity very clear in disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, and computer science. These women are not only paid less, they do not progress well in their careers as much as their male counterparts. Low-income countries tend to have the lowest ratios of women to men as researchers in the science field. The percentage for some African countries are South Africa 43.7%; Egypt 42.8%; Morocco 30.2%; Senegal 24.9%; Nigeria 23.3%; Rwanda 21.8%, Cameroon 21.8%, Ethiopia 31.3%, Sub-Saharan Africa 31.3%.
Gender Biases Discouraging Women and Girls from Science
The impediments women and girls face range from social and environmental factors, negative attitudes towards STEM, bias, and discrimination to low self-assessment of girls. There are persistent stereotypes within schools and families that boys are better than girls at science and mathematics and can succeed more in science-based jobs. It is also believed that women cannot benefit from the heavily male-dominated STEM careers and it is not suitable for them as it is not family-friendly. Furthermore, some cultures believe that investing in girls’ education is not as important as that of boys. These all discourage many women and girls from science and it needs to be properly addressed to secure the future of women in science.
How to Gain Equal Access and Participation for Women and Girls in Science
Gaining full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science is a long and multifaceted process.
Opportunities in Science for Women and Girls
It is projected that in the US alone, over 50% of new job growth in the next couple of years will require science and technology degrees. While women and girls have found it difficult to break into many STEM fields in the past, there are lots of self-evident reasons to pursue opportunities in science. Obtaining a degree in science or STEM strongly indicates financial success. The starting and mid-level salaries for STEM careers are higher than non-science jobs.
Moving away from the issue of financial gain and job security, science-related fields need women as the majority of people in this field are men. This means that the area is lacking the unique perspective, experience, and creativity of the other half of the population.
How to Break the Barriers and Overcoming Challenges in Pursuing a Career in Science
Other than being determined in the face of daunting challenges and obstacles:
Join us to place girls on the path to success through education
Breaking the myths of girl child education and highlighting the facts
A UNESCO (2017) report suggests that 264 million children of primary and secondary school age are out of school. Worldwide, an estimated 100 million young people are illiterate. Out of this number, the greater percentage are girls who are at an even higher risk of missing out on education due to persistent myths and misconceptions surrounding their education. Some of them are:
Myth 1 - Boys are better at understanding technology than girls
In reality, technology is a part of the world we live in and a major aspect of the future. The ability to learn to use technology is present in both genders. What is true is that in some cases, girls have less access to technology than boys do as is true of all education and this has to change.
Myth 2 - Boys are better in school and education than girls
The truth is that boys are girls perform the same when they are not exposed to barriers to access. Barriers to access are gendered and pervasive as well as rooted deeply in the economy and society. They include low attendance rate for girls, gender-based violence, and lack of funding and early marriage.
Myth 3 - There is no gender bias from teachers
Science and math teachers are not biased toward their male students: in reality, biases are persistent and teachers tend to interact more with boys than girls in science and maths and any other subject deemed technical. For example, a teacher will often explain to a boy how to perform an experiment but do the experiment for a girl if she asks for assistance.
Myth 4 - The STEM field is not for the female gender
When it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, some people believe that women are just born at a disadvantage. While gender differences are visible on standardised tests, this does not make them innate. This is because, for instance, countries with larger gaps in gender equality also exhibit larger gaps in math performance by gender compared to more equal nations that show the issue is related to systematic conditioning.
Myth 5 - Education becomes useless once a girl is married
it is believed that a girl ends her education in her husband’s kitchen whereas, in reality, an educated girl remains an asset to her community regardless of marital status as she can earn more, has better outcomes as a mother and is less likely to experience domestic violence. She is also more empowered on all levels.
Why do these myths persist in societies?
Societies hold these myths many times due to a combination of factors that range from a lack of education and awareness, a need to hold on to patriarchy, resistance to change and a love of tradition. Girls are expected to take care of their siblings, perform domestic duties and many times, bring the family out of poverty through early and arranged marriage.
Many people in rural societies especially are resistant to change due to widespread misconceptions regarding girls’ education and a preference for the family hierarchy or structure, which they are used to for generations. It is believed for example that an educated girl will become haughty, promiscuous and difficult to control. In reality, these qualities are not specific to educated girls and have little to do with formal education.
What are the implications for girls’ education?
Education is not seen as a priority in a lot of cases and the issues that discourage girls education are still not tackled properly at all levels in many areas.
How to break the myths?
Breaking the myths involves a multi-layered approach involving the government, teachers, influencers in the community and parents.
1. Parental support as well as support from teachers have proven to be beneficial in creating interest in education for girls and improving attendance, particularly in STEM subjects.
2. Teachers need to be deliberate about taking steps to involve female students, as this is beneficial to everyone.
3. On the government level, there needs to be proper and better investment in education so that girls can be encouraged to get to school. An example is by building separate toilets for girls and providing free regular sanitary products. More women also need to be encouraged to take up public positions and go into decision making so they can mentor the next generation of female leaders.
4. Lastly, influencers in the community such as community leaders should be educated on certain key issues affecting girls’ education, encouraged to put an end to harmful practices such as early marriage, and forced domestication.
Ending Gender-Based Violence
What Is Violence Against Women?
Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
It is rooted in the gender inequality that women face throughout their lives from childhood through to their old age. Violence against women comes in many forms; physical, emotional, verbal, and many more. It can come through different channels including intimate partner violence, workplace violence, sexual violence, family, and even societal violence.
Gender inequality and norms play a big role in the acceptability of violence against women and are a root cause of violence against women.
Why Is Violence Against Women Prevalent?
There are various risk factors that contribute to the prevalence of violence against women, such as:
How To Eliminate Gender-Based Violence From National And International Levels
Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination, social norms that accept violence, and gender stereotypes that continue those cycles of violence. To date, efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls have mainly focused on responding to and providing services to survivors of violence. However, prevention which addresses the structural causes, as well as the risk and protective factors associated with violence is pivotal to eliminating violence against women and girls completely.
Prevention is the only way to stop violence before it even occurs. It requires political commitment, implementing laws that promote gender equality, investing in women’s organisations, and addressing the multiple forms of discrimination women face daily.
Other ways to eliminate violence against women includes the following:
Join Us to Educate Girls to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence
Education can contribute towards the eradication of violence against women and girls. An educated girl has the power to speak up herself. Join us to give girls a voice.
International Day of The Girl Child 2020
My Voice, Our Equal Future
It is a known fact that girls are experts on their own needs and unique realities and all they need is the right support made up of opportunities and skills to make their voices heard. Without this, it is impossible to know exactly what a girl believes is best for her immediate and near future. This is why it is important to give girls a voice and to listen to her when she speaks.
Why The Voices Of Girls Matter?
The voices of girls matter because by giving a girl a voice, she can express herself and limits are removed. There is more participation in decision making about her life; her choices are broadened and ultimately, the quality of education and enlightenment improves. When a girl has a voice, she can make changes in her community; lead, challenge, push boundaries and improve the lives of those around her by inspiring them.
What It Means For Girls To Have A Voice?
Giving girls a voice includes empowering girls and women such that they can participate in decision making at private and public levels and access to resources are no longer one sided (in favour of the male gender) so that both genders become equal participants in leading a productive and reproductive life. When she talks, the world listens.
How Education Can Give Girls A voice?
Every child can reach their full potential through access to education. Without education, girls are exposed and vulnerable and cannot learn how to actualise their ideas and dreams. Education therefore provides the foundation upon which boundless opportunities for future generations of women is built.
Education gives girls a voice because education is key to addressing poverty and fighting disease. An educated woman is an empowered woman that can use her voice to effectively contribute to society, the economy and transforms her family and community through her choices. Being in school makes a girl aware of her rights and improves her own health which in turn affects her family positively.
Education also gives girls the confidence to speak up and increases the probability of them being heard. By giving women and girls a voice, they can join the campaign for equality.
In order to support girls' education, it is important to go beyond providing learning opportunities, it requires keeping girls safe and protecting them from all forms of violence within and outside their places of learning.
Importance Of Our Equal Future
An equal future is one in which there is gender equality. Gender equality goes beyond being a fundamental human right, it is the bedrock of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In an ideal world, gender equality should be the norm. Reducing inequality makes economies stronger and builds societies that are stable and resilient allowing everyone equal opportunity to fulfil their potential.
An equal future is one where girls and boys enjoy socially valued goods, opportunities and resources and rewards the same way. It does not mean that men and women become the same; it just means that access to opportunities does not depend on gender.
An equal future by giving girls a voice is linked to the realisation of basic human rights for all. It is a future in which girls and boys enjoy the same opportunities, obligations and rights in all areas of life.
There is equal distribution of power and influence and equal opportunity for financial independence through work or business. Both genders enjoy equal access to education and the chance to build up on their personal talents, interests and ambitions; share responsibility for the children and the home and are free from gender-based violence both at home and at work. Lastly, both genders are completely free from coercion and intimidation in an equal future.
From £10 a month, you can give a girl a voice through education. Find out how to sponsor a girl.
Impact of Covid-19 on Girls' Education and Violence Against Women
How Covid-19 is affecting the education and safety of girls in The Gambia and Africa
The spread of COVID-19 across Africa has had profound impacts on women and girls as they are particularly vulnerable to the overwhelming effects of the pandemic. As such, it is important for African governments to pay special attention to them as a way to protect them from the ripple effects of the pandemic.
The lockdown and its effects have led to reduced access to health services for women and girls in Africa. With most efforts and resources focused on containing the spread of COVID-19, essential services such as access to sexual and reproductive health services have been affected. Rates of delivery in health centres have also dropped significantly.
Since informal workers made up majorly of women make up more than 90% of the labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa, these jobs have been affected the most during the pandemic. This means that the ability to make money affected women more than men due to the complete or partial closure of borders by governments. Having both children and husbands at home all (or most) of the time means that women and girls spend even more time in domestic work and unpaid care. This includes women in corporate structures as well. Women and girls are expected to care for the elderly, the sick and other members of their households while most often providing income for the family as well. This places an unfair burden on them.
Covid-19 impact on violence against women and girls in Africa
Women and girls are also at a higher risk of gender-based violence even more so now. Reports of violence against women and girls particularly domestic violence are on the rise in several countries according to a recent study by UN women due to financial worries, security and health worries creating tensions pronounced by confined and uncomfortable living conditions of lockdown. Furthermore, 44% of women across Africa are victims of intimate partner violence with figures climbing higher during the imposed lockdown. In South Africa for example, a 37% increase in gender-based violence was reported during the first week of lockdown. One helpline in Zimbabwe noted that the number of abuse cases tripled.
The increase in gender-based violence is not only towards adult women but also targeted at young girls with perpetrators being mostly those close to the victim. In Nigeria, there has been an increase in rape and gender-based violence with more than 700 rape incidents reported across the country in the period of January-May with abuse cases against women and children 3 times higher during the lockdown.
Not only this, the closure of schools across the continent posts a grim reality that many girls will never go back to school since a whopping 40% of girls in Sub-Saharan African marry before the age of 18; with parents being unable to make as much money as they are used to, marrying girls off (selling their daughters) will reduce the number of mouths to feed in the household. This means that young women and girls in Africa are particularly vulnerable to the secondary effects of the pandemic as a result of deep-seated harmful social and gender norms and intricate types of discrimination based on their age, gender and other exclusion criteria. There is also an increase in the exposure of girls to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as well as Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) due to the pandemic.
African governments and society's responsibility to protect women and girl during this pandemic
African governments, therefore, have to urgently address both the direct and secondary effects of the pandemic on women and girls by protecting the progress made in the empowerment and protection of girls particularly in the last decade.
Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic must include a gender-based approach to the provision and guarantee of human rights including basic rights such as access to food and water, shelter and access to essential sexual and reproductive health services.
There must be special palliatives targeted at girls and ongoing welfare services regardless of the pandemic such that women and girls can seek refuge when needed and get tailor-made responses to their unique and collective circumstances.
See our social media pages to find out more about the day-to-day operations of the work we do in educating girls in The Gambia
Sponsoring Child Education In The Gambia
What is Child Sponsorship?
Child sponsorship is a type of fundraising effort in which a child beneficiary is linked to a donor sponsor through the aid of a charitable organisation. In certain situations, the donated funds go to a lot of uses including health, security and infrastructure in the child’s community while in other cases, the funds are only used for the purpose of education whereby the child will be provided with equipment, books and uniform to help with their education.
Recent research, however, has shown that children do better in their education and other areas when their family and community are thriving around them hence the reason why child sponsorship programs now deal with issues of sustainability such as the provision of clean water, income generation schemes, health care and education centres in areas without schools. (For more information, visit Actionaid
Why sponsor a child to go to school?
Sponsoring a child affords you the opportunity to contribute your quota to helping individuals and communities in need. Every little helps when it comes to child sponsorship and you can even learn about a distant culture and community as a bonus, right from your location.
How to empower a girl child through education
Care.org notes that an educated girl is more likely to delay marriage and childbirth enjoy greater income and productivity and raise fewer, healthier and better-educated children. Empowering a girl child through education can be achieved in a variety of ways. One of which is to make schools for girls safe and their environment conducive. Education truly empowers the girl child. Evidence suggests that women and girls who have access to education and have skills in their arsenal to be independent economically are empowered to live healthier and more productive lives.
Empowerment is the process of gaining confidence and strength particularly in exercising control over one’s life and claiming one’s rights. Girls today become women tomorrow and for them to be empowered, inequality and gender gaps have to reduce. Gender bias, culturally imbibed malpractices, child marriage, poor health and sanitation are among the negative issues being faced by girls. Lack of education, however, remains the biggest problem of them all.
In order for these problems to be solved, there needs to be identified by the victims first. A lack of education prevents this from happening. Without girls knowing their rights, they cannot accomplish their dreams. This is why girls should be empowered through education.
At the SaGG Foundation, you can sponsor a girl from £10 a month to enable a girl to gain access to education in The Gambia. This will enable her to build a future for herself and her family. You can also make a donation towards the provision of educational supplies such as books, bags, uniforms and stationary for girls in The Gambia.
What you get for sponsoring a child through education?
The greatest gain you can have for sponsoring a child through education is a sense of giving hope. Your sponsorship makes a difference in the lives of children surely but a child knowing that irrespective of their unique circumstances, someone cares enough about them to sponsor their education is priceless and makes a huge difference in the life of that child.
In some cases, you can get to have a life long relationship with the child you are sponsoring through regular correspondence with the child and receive updates on how the child's schooling and welfare. Sponsoring a child through education allows you to know that you are helping communities to grow and become self-sustaining.
Empowering Young Girls Through Education After Marriage
The SaGG Foundation (Sponsor a Gambia Girl) is pleased to announce that after reading about the difficult ordeal, faced by a young promising girl caught up in a short-lived marriage that ended in abandonment by her Gambian Swedish-based husband, few days after childbirth. Has taken the initiative to support the girl into further education at the Management Development Institute (MDI).
The story which was first published by the widely read online media platform What’s On-Gambia, followed by an in-depth interview conducted by Gambia Talents Promotion, featured Mariama (not her real name), narrating her ordeal. Due to marriage, she stopped her studies and was a stay at home wife facing immense challenges and difficulties. Her situation became worse when she was divorced by her husband only few days after giving birth to her first child. Leaving her with the sole responsibility to take care of her and her son’s wellbeing. Left in such a situation without employment, made Mariama helpless.
The SaGG Foundation, which is instituted based on empowering the girl child through education, took on the initiative to sponsor Mariama to continue her studies. She is now enrolled at the MDI on a two years course, studying for a qualification on National Diploma in Gender and Development, commencing this July. The Foundation is also supporting Mariama with her transportation cost when traveling to and from school.
Upon receiving this sponsorship opportunity Mariama reacted by saying ‘I’m appreciative and lucky to be the recipient of this scholarship. I am majoring in activism with an emphasis on gender-based violence. I aspire to have a career as an Activist. With this scholarship, I am one-step closer to my goal, without having to worry about any financial burden; this would allow me to focus on my studies. I intend to take this opportunity and immerse myself in all that it presents to better myself, my family, and my country’.
The SaGG Foundation prides itself on using education as the tool to give girls a life of freedom, independence, and a future full of possibilities. Where 100% of all sponsorship goes to the girl’s education. Founded in November 2018, the Charity is now sponsoring 140 girls into education, from nursery through to university. Our Mantra remains the same, Education Changes Everything for A Girl! You can find out more about our work by visiting our social media pages Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
By sponsoring a girl from £10 a month, you will enable her to access education in The Gambia to build a better future for herself and her family.
How to break down the barriers to girl child education
The barriers to girls Education are historical! I will even go further by saying that girls have always faced obstacles since the introduction of formal education in the Gambia compared to boys. Although progress has been made over the years and the gap is shrinking, more still needs to be done in sensitizing people in this regard. A significant portion of this success can be attributed to the Education for All initiative, which was implemented by UNESCO in 2004.
The impediments to girls' education are many, but if I were to attribute it to any major problem, I would say it’s more of a cultural problem than anything else. I want to focus on culture because it drives the customs and social institutions of a country, thereby controlling the mindset and way of life of the people. With that, the relevance of culture in this cannot be overemphasized. Culture governs how people live, think, and behave. Culture generally determines who we are mentally and emotionally and that it also shapes our belief system.
How cultural practices contributes to the barrier of educating the girl child?
Social expectations have been a form of pressure placed on girls in the Gambian context. The traditional family structure values a girl’s role in domestic labour, from cooking and cleaning to caring for younger siblings, especially as they get older. Domestic work in certain family settings can be daunting, and that has prevented so many girls from attending school. When the culture values girls as nothing but marriage material and prepares them for that, then their education becomes secondary. This problem is even more present in rural areas.
And even in the event that a girl is enrolled in school, primary school completion remains a challenge. While the primary school enrolment gap has shrunk, primary school completion is a different story. According to UNICEF, for every 100 boys that complete their basic education in The Gambia, only 74 girls do the same, with the numbers even lower in some areas at 64 percent and 44 percent. At the secondary school level, in The Gambia, the net secondary school enrolment rate is low, to begin with, and girls only constitute approximately 30 percent of all students enrolled in secondary or vocational schools.
What is society's role in breaking the cultural barrier to girls' education?
Arguably, the issues of girls’ education circles back to culture. Both the dropout rates at the primary and secondary levels are generally connected to a traditional family structure that values a girl’s role in domestic labour more than education in certain families and certain regions. I see culture as the biggest hindrance here, and a paradigm shift is needed in this area.
Cultural beliefs have a way of holding society with a tight grip, but with a robust sensitization campaign, we can start to break down the line of thinking that has proven to be a barrier to girls' education. As the backbone of the family unit and keeping players in the economy, women play a critical role. Therefore, it is very important for all of us to join hands and support in the breaking down of the line of thinking that is obstructing girls’ education.
Girls' education provision in The Gambia
Let Us Teach Young Gambian Girls About Female Leadership
I am not one for a beauty pageant, However, I was captivated by Miss Universe 2019, Ms. South Africa Zozibini Tunzi. In the final round of the competition when the 3 finalists were asked the question by Steve Harvey “what is the most important thing to teach young girls today?” the response of Ms. South Africa blew me away.
She said and I quote “the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is LEADERSHIP. It is something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time. Women are the most powerful beings in the world and women should be given every opportunity to take up space. Nothing is as important than to take up space in society”. Zozi has redefined the ideals of beauty in pageantry, has broken the mold and re-written history. She has affirmed that black children’s dreams are valid.
Have you watched the movie “Black Panther”? Don’t you just like the way it views and portrays women. Strong female characters have long played a huge role in the kingdom of Wakanda, as a fierce all-female special forces outfit tasked with protecting the king. We see a powerful superhero only protected by women? Now that’s new. Isn’t it amazing to see King T’Challa conspicuously surrounds himself with women, not just for the convenience, but because these are the people he can TRUST and trusting people as a leader is no small thing.
Now back to reality. In The Gambia we live in a patriarchal society and as a society, we need to do more to teach young girls about leadership, be it in the political, economic, business and social spheres. In all progressive countries, their leaders recognize that gender equality is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing. It makes economic sense as well. However, in a country like ours, achieving gender equality is difficult given some of our cultural and social norms. It is for this reason that young girls from Banjul to Koina need to be taught about leadership and its about time a girl’s leadership and mentorship academy is established in The Gambia. Such a program will build the capacity of young girls and future women leaders to have a much greater impact, build their confidence to compete in the real world as they embark on their career paths. This is one of the ways for young Gambian girls to claim the leadership space in their communities.
Society calls for More Women in Leadership
We want to see more Gambian women stepping up to the challenge of leadership in both the public and private sectors. While impressive strides have been made in terms of gender equality and girls’ education at the primary level in terms of access (quality is still a challenge), we need to advocate for this in secondary and tertiary levels. Women make up half of our population and they must take their rightful place in society. The Gambia must capitalize on the human capital of women who by number alone make up a large pool of potential talent needed to drive the country forward. An aeroplane does not fly on one wing, it needs both wings to fly. Likewise, The Gambia’s development trajectory will be constrained if the other 50% of the population (our women folks are not central to the development process). Of course, certain challenges abound that have held Gambian girls and women back, but these challenges can be further reduced by having targeted mentorship, access to education and other initiatives that encourage more girls to realize their vast potential. The number of women in leadership roles is still too low compared to what it could be, and nurturing growth in this arena will benefit both men and women in The Gambia.
To nurture young girls as leaders we will need our girls to stay in school. #handsoffourgirls. To the old men in our society, please leave our young girls alone and follow women your age. Early marriage is one of the harmful traditions widely practiced in Gambian and African societies. The practice involves the marriage of girls who have not achieved full maturity and lack the ability to control their sexuality. Across Africa, 125 million girls and young women today were married before their 18th birthday, and more than 1 in 3 young women in Africa were married during childhood, and 1 in 10 before their 15th birthday. The consequences of early marriage are enormous in terms of foregone educational and economic opportunities; maternal morbidity and mortality; more limited voice and power within the family and community; life-course and inter-generational poverty transfers. End early marriages, allow our young girls to stay in school and do not condemn them to a life of perpetual poverty.
A combination of community awareness-raising, support for girls’ secondary education, economic strengthening initiatives and legal empowerment for girls and women needs to be considered, but these should be designed with an in-depth understanding of the local culture and context to avoid generating negative or unforeseen consequences.
Education contributes to the increase of female leadership
Education alone is not the only solution, nevertheless, schooling is fundamental to expanding girls’ options. Given that research has found that each and every year of schooling matters, and that secondary school makes the most difference to girls’ power to make decisions, the government need to invest in affordable, quality primary education for all girls and ensure that high school is not seen as an add-on for the wealthy, but a given opportunity for all.
Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development, and peace cannot be achieved.
The urgency of having more women in leadership positions in The Gambia as in all African countries was alluded to by Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during an interview to mark International Women’s Day. She was asked:
“If you have just one proposal to share with your colleagues, the Heads of State of Africa, in order to promote a sustainable gender equality process, what will be this one key action?”
Her response was:
“I would propose to my peers to increase the level of women’s participation in leadership roles and decision-making in all levels of society. We need to redeploy energies and resources towards pursuing not only gender equity but women’s participation in decision-making to generate the desired change. But more needs to be done, and this would be my appeal to my fellow Heads of State and Government.”
Let us all support our young Gambian girls to #ClaimThisSpace. Young Gambian girls can be leaders in their chosen career professions. It was Sheryl Sandberg the founder of “Lean In” who said, we should think of a career like a marathon, it is long, grueling and ultimately rewarding. What voices do the men hear from the beginning? ‘You’ve got this. Keep going. Great race ahead of you.’ What do the women hear from day one out of college? ‘You sure you want to run? Marathon’s really long. You’re probably not going to want to finish. Don’t you want kids one day?’
In the not too distant future in The Gambia, we will have a young generation of Zozibini Tunzi with natural beauty, smart, witty, intelligent and bold to take action. We will have strong Wakanda young girls and women who will be trusted leaders (don’t get me started about how male politicians have failed us miserably). We will have strong female characters that will claim their leadership space competitively and not out of tokenism.
I am a believer.
Importance of girls' education
Find out about the benefits and advantages of educating girls.
The SaGG Foundation (Sponsor a Gambian Girl) is a girl’s education movement, with aim of championing the cause for girl child education in The Gambia. Education is a basic human right; our vision is to advocate and pair up girls with sponsors.
100% of your sponsorship goes to the girl's education.
See here how we do it.