The empowerment of the girl child begins with educating young males in primary and secondary schools that the female is of equal intellectual and social capability and is capable of defending herself and making sound, intelligible choices without the help of a male nor his supervision thereof. Why chose the primary & secondary school platforms? At this stage, children are very impressionable and see the school as a superior source of knowledge compared to home and places of worship. Subsequently, they communicate what they are taught in school to their parents who also believe that schools are more superior sources of information and there are great chances of adopting this new information and allowing their children to propagate them at home. Creating early awareness in a male child, that a female child is an equal regardless of physical features is an early empowerment of the female gender and a mental liberation to explore previously unchartered opportunities economically with the confidence of achieving success. Should ethical reorientation which challenges patriarchal societal norms be instituted at such early ages? I thoroughly believe so. What is your opinion?

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  • Nwedobong Okon

    Tazeen, you ave made a very valid point there. The other alternative would be to educate mothers to defend their daughters' choices for a later time of marriage. An economically empowered woman would be bold to defend her stance as it concerns untimely marriage of her girl child and decisive enough to take actions towards protecting her child. The role of women in overcoming these traditional rules cannot be ignored or downplayed and it starts with empowering these women economically so as to give their opinion a voice and power.

  • Julien Delsarte

    I completely agree with you, Tazeen. That's the problem of universalistic and eurocentric values. I believe that questions that you higlighted are very difficult to answer.

    For the multi-level approach, I saw in India that when you have some weight in a community (endogenous organizations) and that you can offer some social benefits from your actions, people are less fearful. I believe that change is an endogenous need and that you can't (as a government/NGO) push people to do something. So, I would follow the work of Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen on capability approach. It is important to give opportunities to people to chose what they want to do with their lives. As choice is based on knowledge, education and training should offer a diversity of (neutral) perspectives to children. But is that enough ? In an engaged vision, I don't think so.

    I would conclude on this sentence from Creative Handicrafts : "We believe that women unskilled and disadvantaged can change their own world.. And then..like a ripple turning into a tide, women can change our world". As you said, challenging traditional mindsets is a step by step process. Sharing knowledge is important to underline social benefits and to have an exponential impact on society. 

  • Tazeen Dhanani

    I think these are strong and valid points that everyone has made, but my question is, from a practicality and feasibility standpoint, how do we change mindsets in cultures that are strictly patriarchal, traditional, and conservative, where both men and women have ingrained the notion that men must take care of women to the point where they have absolute control over women's lives? In my opinion, we need to challenge traditional mindsets in every step of the way before real and lasting change occurs. While it would be wonderful for boys to view their female peers as their equal counterparts, on par with or even exceeding them, this is far from reality in many countries. They say it takes an entire village to raise a child, but what do you do when that village upholds certain notions that they simply refuse to let go of in the name of tradition, even and especially when it denies basic human rights and dignity? What would it take for boys and men to relinquish their position of power to equalize the playing field and create a more egalitarian society, where girls and women are seen as their equals? I agree that a multi-level approach that is easy to implement is crucial, but as we know, change is scary, and resistance to it is the easiest default. 

  • Teresa Abila

    Yes I concur,to change the belief that a woman is a weak gender,male children must be mobilized to advocate for that change.Schools are the best institutions to execute the awareness since they are found in large numbers and  value immensely what they're told by their teachers and would run home to inform their parents.These male children would grow knowing that fact and since the elders listen more to them,such stereotypes against girls would change for the better in the near future.  

  • Sabin Muzaffar

    I definitely agree with Julien. While conducting an interview with a Pakistani NGO - the organization lamented on the lack of implementation on not only the part of the government but also international agencies that had vouched for assistance on issues of gender equality, inclusion and diversity - but no concrete action actually took place. So it is critical for the public & private sectors as well as global organizations to come up with concrete actions. 

  • Julien Delsarte

    I also think that stimulate self-awareness at earliest stages of education and socialization is an important factor. While I was in India as a volunteer, I learned that self-awareness and conscientization improve mindset and local communities. Nevertheless, culture, social imitation and violence are intertwined. For me, it's important to consider a multi-level approach and work both with children and parents. When a boy or a girl saw familial violence, there are sometimes social imitation and "culture of silence" phenomenon. I believe that habits and social dispositions are crucial features to work with. For me women's empowerment, or gender approach, needs to be thought both in a remedial (problem solving) and preventive approach (conscientization, self-awareness).

    The second problem is implementation. In India, I heard that government is focused on women's empowerment. But people always said that concrete actions never come to the target group. I think that governments have to be champions for empowerment in an other way. As Wilkinson (1998 : 5) said, « a distinction could be made between empowerment initiatives […] and initiatives which may empower ». Initiatives aiming at empowerment (to develop participation, to bring self-esteem, etc.) could fail in their objective because of familial conflict or institutional failures. On the other side, initiatives aiming at self-reliance or conscientization can develop an endogenous empowerment.

  • Sabin Muzaffar

    I absolutely agree with you on that. It is crucial to change the narrative and it begins by working from the basic. In order to create an equitable society, the need of the hour is to re-inform and recreate the image of the girl child, the female gender from one that has been predetermined by the patriarchal mindset of communties from time immemorial. Indeed it is a big task which is why it needs support, encouragement and active participation of every member of society - men, women, girl and yes definitely boys. It is quite interesting to note, that in one of my interview with TechWoman ZImbabwe's president Rumbi Mlambo, she discussed how girls work better in a single-sex environment as they are not as self-aware which they are when its a co-ed situation. That said, I attended a conference held on the International Woman's Day March this year in Dubai and the same discussion took place - with eminent women leaders debating this issue. And it was realized during this talk that even though women thrive in a single-sex environment; it is equally important to have a mix environment for boys. So there needs to be a middle ground where balance and diversity is created.


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