Empowering the Girl Child

We started asking girls to briefly answer the following question, what does a girl need today to become an economically empowered women tomorrow?, and then we invited our members to share ideas and examples of initiatives that can help a girl child grow today and become an economically and empowered woman in the future.

This online activity organized in August 2014 as part of the Beijing+20 campaign, brought together nearly 7,000 women and men from 172 countries. They contributed a total of 23 comments discussing a series of issues and sharing examples of innovative approaches to increase a girl child’s access to quality education and empowerment.

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  • Mwansa Namukulwa

    Girl child if mentored right at that tender age,am certain its all the difference we need to have girls make that change and be empowered. Having a mentor equip a girl with concepts such as confidence,bravery,assertiveness,knowledge on importance of education,gaining as much information as possible. Imagine a girl child who knows the importance of education in her class,intimidation from her boy classmate will not be an option because her good grades wont allow it,thereby fighting the discrimination with education vice..Girls who have been taught how to be confident,brave and assertive are more likely to get the talent and development skills in their work environment,this will lead to having more women ladies in position and its at points such as these that the get to change the world positively through direct policies implemented hence economically empowering themselves and generations to come..Lets mentor,support the girl child of today to empower the woman of tomorrow. 

  • Anamika Sharma

    The Government of West Bengal in India has decided on creating an enabling environment for elevating the education, health and nutrition status of women and children through an innovative scheme -"Kanyashree Prakalpa".

    While a number of factors contribute towards girls dropping out of school, human rights research shows that the greatest obstacles to girls’ education are child marriage, pregnancy and domestic chores, and that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of most effective protective measures against child marriage..

    . The specific objectives of the Scheme are to:

    • Incentivize through scholarships, the continuation of education of the girl child in Secondary and Higher Secondary classes , vocational training or sports training. To reduce drop outs, especially amongst girls from poor families, who are not covered by any other scholarship
    • Dis-incentivise child marriage of girls to ensure compliance with the legal provisions pertaining to the minimum age at marriage

    The Scholarship or One-Time grant will be paid to the beneficiaries by way of fund transfer through a bank account only.  Having a bank account in the applicant’s name is not a pre-requisite at the time of applying for either of the Scheme’s benefits. Once an application is approved, the applicant will be helped in opening and operating a bank account by the banking partner.

    The  government has achieved the target of bringing 16 lakhs girls under the Kanyashree project. The project recently received praise from the UNICEF and the British government’s Department for International Development.

    Reference: http://wbkanyashree.gov.in/kp_home.php#


  • Sara Allegue Rey

    “Philomena, who lives in Kenya, was excited because she was going to school with her brother. There were hundreds of children at the school, all hoping to learn and to get a free lunch of porridge every day. The first months went well, and Philomena made friends with some of the other girls who were at the school. She and three other seven-year-old girls crowded together at a little wooden desk, looking at pictures and beginning to read the words in the one book that they shared. In the springtime, Philomena’s mother told her that the next day they were going together to do something very special.Some of the other girls were going too. Philomena was nervous and excited at the same time; she had heard that special things happened to girls of her age, but she was not sure what the surprise was going to be. It turned out to be terrifying and indescribably painful. Her auntie and grandmother held her arms and legs while another older woman cut her between the legs. Finally Philomena fainted. When she awoke, she was lying on a cot, her legs bound closely together to stem the bleeding. She remained resting for several days and finally was allowed to get up, to hobble around until the wound healed. Her mother and other female relatives gave her special food; they treated her in a respectful and admiring way. She felt honored to become a special part of the community. Because of her wounds, she stayed away from school for several weeks, and then it seemed inappropriate to return. Besides, her mother needed her to do chores at home. Philomena never went back to school. Philomena is fifteen now, in 2007; she helps her mother in the fields and looks after her younger brothers and sisters. Soon she will be married.” (From Outrage to Courage – Anne Firth Murray)

    This story is suffered by girls from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and Eastern Europe year in year out. Girls need basically FREEDOM AND SUPPORT by their families. Girls have to attend school because education is a human right and they have to have power to decide what they want. Why cannot a girl, who wants to be a Maths teacher for example, achieve her dream because her family forced her to get married and leave the school at the age of 9? We women, we have to fight against this injustices in order to achieve Equality, and society has to bear in mind that “If you educate a girl, educate a nation”.

  • Jennifer Perkins

    We must better combat the root causes of girls missing out on education, or leaving education early. The sources will be different in every country, possibly different even at the town/village level.

    There are so many potential reasons for girls to miss out on school--health, poverty, family pressure, childcare concerns, lack of a nearby school, tumult/violence in the region, etc.

    If we focus too much on the big picture, we may run into obstacles trying to implement the policies at the micro-level. If at all possible, we should consider starting with the small picture (perhaps at a regional level), and implement policies tailored-fit to the problems in that specific area.

  • Sharon Reed

    All excellent points below, Tissa and Chiara touch on aspects of the conversation that are often missing when it comes to strategies for empowering young girls -- the influence of the home environment. While access to quality education is an undeniably critical component of developing the skills and confidence to become and economically empowered woman, the foundational belief in oneself often begins (or ends) at home. Having interviewed and spoken to dozens of women and girls on the subject of personal empowerment, girls need support from parents, community leaders, teachers, mentors and peers to foster, cultivate and nurture a sense of possibility and passion for learning. 

    I believe that an essential component of education initiatives includes character-based leadership development -- where girls are taught core concepts of leadership, including advocacy, collaboration, integrity, authenticity, resiliency, courage, etc. -- essential for developing their own voice and leadership.

    I recently met and spoke with a woman, now in her 30s, who managed to transcend the traditional norms and values of her home village in Nigeria, overcoming tremendous odds and barriers to rise to the top of her class in school, obtain a college degree and later an advanced degree in petroleum engineering. She now works in Houston for Chevron. At every step in her journey, she was told she either couldn't, wouldn't or shouldn't pursure this path, and should instead opt to succumb to pressures to marry early, forfeit her education, and raise a family. Beyond her own internal drive to transcend her circumstances, she had support from her parents to pursue her education and develop her career. Taking early risks, developing her education, and being given opportunities to step up and lead played key roles in enabling her to become the economically empowered leader she is today.


  • Poh Ching Tan

    Equal jobs opportunities without gender biases even in male-dominated sectors like medicine, engineering, research that can be made available in the jobs market.  Labour laws to be imposed so as to prevent gender discrimination, and to encourage employers to practise equal gender employing during recruitment drives .  The enacted laws also protect women rights in the workplace and the relevant government legal agency is an avenue to address the woes of any labour unjust that women workers may face in the course of work or seeking employment.

  • Tissa Banda

    Girls of today especially in Africa are engaging in pre-marital sex at very young ages. Others are being married off by their parents for small amounts of money due to poverty.  I belive educating girls and their parents on sexual and reproductive health rights is very vital to an empowered future generation of girls.

    Girls at a young age should also be told to depend on themselves for finances and not men. This is so in the African culture were men are seen as the sole providers for the family.

  • Caro Cimador

    Education is the key linked to the esteem. Girls are more curious and need educational proposals that teach them to overcome challenges in diversity.

    If a girl is well-educated, but their family and school believe that the boy is becoming higher and she get the second and deserves the second she will get more insecurity arrivig higher. 
    The most important is encouraged to educate raising her voice and not be afraid to break the code of silence and to make the change. 
    Education, communication and technology are very close to this.

  • Nora Hamdy

    I believe that the basic thing women need to be an economically empowered is their education , women need to find their independence and the only way they can do that is to finish their schools to find a appropriate job with satisfying salary . And then with the basic knowledge of entrepreneurship , they can implement their own project.

  • Belinda-Rose Young

    What an awesome video! I think that it should be played in classrooms around the world as it may inspire young girls, while encouraging others that are already motivated that they are not alone in their desires to succeed as young women. This video caused me to reflect on what Michelle Obama said, that a lot of young people in the U.S. take education for granted. This attitude could also lead to being economically disempowered, if one's opportunity for education is wasted. More needs to be done to inspire our young people globally and provide them with tangible opportunities that increases their hope for change.

  • Chiara Luna Marmai

    We often forget how long was the fight against women's slavery, how hard and difficult their empowerment and how much it costed to many women.
    Even in our modern Western countries, this  is a thing that sometimes undergoes a reversal.
    Today girls have to take example from women that made struggle for their rights and their economic achievement.
    The relationship between genders is exposed to changes that do not necessarily follow the path of progress, sometimes a mentality that seemed to finally and definitively surpassed, seems to emerge from the past. Girls must continue the fight in all different possible ways for their cultural, civil and economic empowerment.
    Important to them will be the training, the work experiences but also learn, through the education, how to mantain the emancipation achieved and how to improve and consolidate it.
    They should not be afraid to assert their egos following their personal aspirations and their personal qualities.
    To do all of this, they need a quiet home enviroment that can give them proper support and encouragement, they need high quality education, training, financial support and appropriate tools to achieve their empowerment.

  • Esther Oyolo

    The video is great!

    Girls need good education and not just basic education which is prevalent in developing nations, girls need quality education in order to be economically empowered.  Girls need to have the right to make decisions and not decisions to be made for the, they need to be the decision-makers in their time and make informed decisions.  Girls do not need to be discriminated against as is the case in some areas, girls need to be treated with respect and not to be seen as the 'weaker' gender and they need to know how to defend themselves and not to rely on the male counterparts.  All the above are necessary for the girls to be empowered economically.


  • abigail livioco

    Treat everyone equally. Give every child a chance. Provide sufficient  education  and allow them to share their skills and talents. Feed them with the right knowledge and guide them as they grow to become better individuals.

  • Ahmed Youssef

    In my opinion, decent education is the most important element in refurbishing individuals. Young girls need access to schools where they can get their elementary education as well as universities to get advanced education and degrees that make them competitive enough in the job market. Policy-makers should call for ensuring gender equality in education as well as in work environment. For instance, providing jobs should only depend on the qualification of the applying individuals regardless of their gender. The activists and the media should lead campaigns that aim at raising pubic awareness towards the indispensable role of women in every field and abolishing the belief that women are always incompetent. Only then the economic empowerment of women may come to reality!


    Equal treatment, each child has the right and the girl in particular. The right to education (Go to school, get a harmonized universal program) remain best to complete his training; One thing is to enter the school, but another is to stay and finish his training. We must advocate for an environment that protects the child, the girl and the woman. Build a trust or woman and the young is expressed, recognizes its potential, expresses his needs, providing innovative ideas leading to its autonomy.

  • Anamika Sharma

    Identifying the talent of the girl child is the key to her empowerment. Talent in academics, sports and fine arts should be identified by school and parents.  Some students can be easily identified by their performance in respective fields, however specialized approach is needed for girls who are underachievers, are specially abled and belong to socio-economic disadvantaged section of society.

    Creative thinking which includes having original, independent and out of the box ideas should be encouraged in girls. In my experience if the girl child happens to be the eldest child in a family she has inherent leadership qualities. She is organized, confident, decisive, responsible and  popular. These qualities if developed can help her take a leadership role in future.

    Sometimes girls good in fine arts underperform in mathematics, science etc. Parents support and understanding is essential here. If they can afford they can organize extra classes, arrange tutors or to make it economical they can enroll them in a club to nurture their talent. 

  • Ogechi Obiorah
    Great video and great imput by everyone. Education is key! a good, quality, engaging, education. However the constant strike actions by teachers in some areas, absenteeism, and dropping out of school by the pupils seem to undermine the great impact that education should have on the children. Furthermore the mode of teaching in some places do not engage the students. Teachers just write notes and the children merely copy and "cram" what they copy for the purpose of passing exams without actually understanding. The effect is that the child does not develop any interest for school and drops out as soon as she can. Schools need to bring into the curriculum, leadership, technical, life skills as well as enterpreneural skills to cater for the varied interests of the students. They need to develop activities which the students can champion and learn from to further develop these skills and to engage them even in the absence of the teachers. There is need for direct mentorship for the children by Women Professionals, Organisations, and even peers to build confidence and morale. Good, quality, engaging, education, leadership, technical and life skills and good mentoring can help a girl child to become an economically empowered woman tomorrow.
  • Eunice Olembo

    Thank you for the video.

    I would like to echo the sentiments of the two Laura's however I would like to look at it from a different point of view especially as an African. Education is paramount for the girl today to being an economically empowered woman tomorrow. We have the legislation that provides for access to education, however we tend to find that there are stumbling blocks that affect the accessibility to this education in the first place, especially in the rural areas.

    We tend to find that things that we would usually take for granted like access to sanitary towels have a big impact on a girl's accessibility to proper education. Lack of access to sanitary towels means on average a girls is missing between 3-7 days per month. with translates to between 36-84 days in a year, which translates to a 1 month- almost 2.5 months in a year. That is a lot of time to be away from school.

    Harmful cultural practices such as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and early marriage which go hand in hand most of the times. In most communities FGM is seen as the passage from childhood to womanhood. That passage means that a girl is deemed ready to be married off. Some of these marriages take place with girls as young as 9 years old. In my opinion therefore, to ensure that girls today become economically empowered women tomorrow, we need to mitigate if not completely cut out the stumbling blocks that act as a hindrance to the accessibility of education. The law is there to protect and safeguard the rights of all girls, irrespective of whether they are in the rural or urban setting.

  • Laura Cook

    Excellent video - such simple but powerful answers.

    I echo Laura's comments; while education is the key it also has to be the right kind of education. Education that does not simply mean bottoms on classroom chairs but means learning that enables girls to grow into empowered and knowledgeable women. Education that opens minds and develops aspirations. Education that goes beyond the classroom and encourages women to grow in their potential. In Sierra Leone, my current home, I see too many people measuring success purely on attendance. We need to look beyond numbers and start focusing on quality of learning. 


    I have certainly not had a chance to view the stunning video in full for reasons of field mission in an inaccessible area. However the access to education of all children from particuliéerement but the girl remains key to their empowerment and self-fulfillment element. Do not tell your that we perish not for lack of knowledge. If the objectives of the millennium have enabled us to realize the progress we say that much remains to be done. A free access to education remains the primary route and a safe investiment for empowerment of girl and future wife in particular. Follow education is good but access a large, comprehensive and universal program is even better as a guarantee of equal opportunity.

  • Michelle Watkins

    In the Philippines, a program has been initiated for at-risk youth called JobStart. This is a "partnership program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which aims to increase the employability of the youth by providing them access to technical and life skills training demanded by employers and by mentoring and tooling them to improve their job searches and outcomes."

    The program is currently in its pilot stage and involves the participation of local government units (LGUs) and employers who have pledged internships for the youth beneficiaries in their companies. The beneficiaries are to receive full-cycle employment facilitation services that include career guidance and coaching, life skills training, technical skills training, company-based internships, and stipends.

    The support of international agency-partners, local government units, and the participation of employers are necessary for effective delivery of the program. If this program is successful it has a lot of promise for the employability of local youth. Such an initiative has potential for other target groups, especially girls. As Laura mentioned "access to education is key". In addition, having them learn technical and life skills and offering mentoring opportunities for female beneficiaries may increase their employability and pave the way for economic empowerment.

  • Laura Isidean

    Brilliant video!  Access to education is key.  Through the Millenium Development Goals, progress has been made in granting access to primary education, but we need to go further.  Primary and secondary education need to be of high quality, SAFE (especially for girls), accessible and free worldwide - this is an investment for the future, one that has to be prioritized by local governments. 

    It is not enough to get children into school, we also need to ensure they are learning relevant skills (including math and literacy) and completing their course of study.  Of course, this also means that child labour should not be tolerated, to allow girls and boys to make the most of their education. 

    Seeing the energy of the girls in the video is inspiring - they clearly have the will to succeed, we need to give them the opportunity!

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