But what does ‘EMPOWERMENT’ look like and why is it important?
According to the World Bank, empowerment is “the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.” 2 In short, empowerment is about agency and the access to choices. The ability to make choices is a complex idea but basically, there needs to be more than one viable option available to you for you to make an authentic choice.
Studies show that empowerment is closely linked to education. For instance, the higher educated women are, the more likely they are to exercise control over household decisions, they are less likely to accept domestic violence and generally have greater freedom to lead independent lives. 2
“In a study of one African country, for every additional year of school a woman completed she was 10 percent less likely to believe domestic abuse is acceptable.”
1. It promotes political leadership amongst girls which creates a more equitable society
If we are to achieve authentic gender equality in the future, we need more women in positions of power. Education equips women with the skills to develop into future leaders. Additionally, women are more likely to develop and advocate for policy that improves family and community life than men.
More generally, leadership skills, like decision making, forming ideas, working in teams and negotiation, prepare girls to navigate their personal and future professional lives more successfully. Taught at an early age, these life skills are fundamental to the empowerment of girls and women.
2. It cultivates “soft skills” which are vital for personal and professional development
According to research, soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, effective communication, mediation, collaboration, creativity and strength of character, are critical to the healthy development of boys and girls. In fact, 85% of job success comes down to soft skills and only 15% of job success from technical skills and knowledge according to research by the Carnegie Foundation, Harvard University and the Stanford Research Centre. 3
3. It better equips girls to transcend rigid gender norms that undermine their full potential
Improving the quality of education, which includes implementing a gender-sensitive curriculum, is essential to prepare young people with the skills they need to thrive in the world. For girls, an education that allows them to transcend rigid gender norms allows them to better reach their full potential, learn better and benefit more from their education.
For instance, gender norms that teach girls to be sensible and obedient greatly affect their ability to think for themselves, form opinions, and make decisions. This hinders the way they learn, their participation in the classroom and how they engage with content.
A study commissioned by UNESCO on the participation and performance of girls in Science, Mathematics and Technology subjects found that low expectations amongst parents and teachers towards girls’ abilities and the attitudes of obedience and subservience instilled in girls “makes it difficult for girls to fully benefit from the participatory, discovery methods that are recommended because they will be reluctant to ask questions, participate fully in discussions or work in groups with members of the opposite sex.” 4
4. It creates healthier families
As women around the world traditionally take on more responsibility for the health of the family, when women are more empowered, more educated and healthy, families are healthier. Girls who receive a good quality sexual and reproductive health education at an earlier age are more likely to fall pregnant later in life. If or when they do fall pregnant, girls who are more educated in health practices and empowered through education will be better equipped to manage their lives and the lives of their babies.
Children born to better educated mothers are less likely to suffer malnourishment and more likely to receive better health care, including vaccinations. 5
Due to overall improvements in girl’s education 2.1 million children under 5 were saved between the 1990 and 2009, according to UNESCO. 5 Additionally, women with post-primary education are five times more likely than illiterate women to be educated on the topic of HIV and AIDS. 6
5. It helps break the poverty cycle
Girls are more likely to invest back into their families in smarter and more beneficial ways.
Research by the Brookings Institution revealed that with each additional year of education, a girls’ future wage increases by an average of 12%. 7 She will also have better educated children which will set off an inter-generational impact that will aid in breaking the poverty cycle.
6. It strengthens economies
Girls who stay in school longer, receive a better quality education, are more empowered to make better decisions and will make more substantial contributions to their local and national economies. “Increasing the number of women completing secondary education by just 1 percent could increase a country’s economic growth by 0.3 percent”, a Brookings report reveals. Another report by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that up to $29 trillion would be added to the annual global GDP in 2025 if women’s participation in the labour market was equal to that of men’s.7
For agricultural economies: wages, agricultural income and productivity are higher when women involved in agriculture are better educated. 7
7. It can bring about a more peaceful world
According to research conducted by the World Bank and Harvard University “if the enrolment rate for secondary schooling is 10 percentage points higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3 percentage points.” 9
So, to put it very simply, more girls in school will result in better educated families and communities and a more peaceful world.
8. It’s the right thing to do (and the smartest)
The benefits of investing in girls are obvious. But more importantly, we have a collective responsibility to protect her rights and her wellbeing and to ensure every girl has the right to take control of her future.
SERniña (By REALgirl Empowerment Programs) offers workshops to address the unique needs for girls’ education and empowerment, and supports local NGOs and educational organizations to better support their girls.
SERniña recognized this issue, and was created in the spirit of collaboration. We want to collaborate with existing NGOs and schools who are in the most need of working with their girls on issues of self-esteem, self-value and overall personal development. Once self-esteem is boosted, girls feel more empowered, to participate, to voice opinions, to grow. This critical development will put them in a better position psychologically and socially to better engage with and benefit from their education.
To support SERniña on our mission to increase our reach in Guatemala and ensure more girls learn the skills to thrive personally, academically and professionally, click here and learn about how you can get involved and take an active role in the empowerment of girls everywhere.
2. What works in Girls’ Education. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2016, from https://www.malala.org/brookings-report, Free, safe, quality education is the right of every girl. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2016, from https://www.malala.org/girls-education
5. GEM Report: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001902/190214e.pdf
6. http://www.globalpartnership.org/education/the-benefits- of-education
7. http://www.brookings.edu/research/books/2015/what-works- in-girls- education