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Innovative Solutions: Breaking the Mold of Girls’ Empowerment Initiatives
Female empowerment programs have existed now for many years all over the world. However, we cannot fall into complacency and allow such programs to become a cliché. UNGEI partners work continuously to push forward new and innovative programs that will best ensure that girls aren’t held back from realizing their full potential.
In Nepal, two local NGOs are breaking the mold of girls’ empowerment initiatives. Women LEAD is the first and only organization in Nepal specifically focused on long-term leadership development for girls. Since 2011, they’ve empowered over 500 young leaders in Nepal with the skills, support and opportunities to become leaders in their schools, communities and nation. The organization reaches out and trains young women with different backgrounds who want to make a difference for Nepal. Women LEAD is based on the principles of local ownership, inclusivity of both girl and boys, and girl-leadership - all of the organization’s staff are under 25 years old and include program alumni. Participants learn from their peers in a creative space, unlike the Nepali rote style of learning that is taught in classrooms across the country.
Her Turn offers a different approach to the discrimination, inequality, and security of rural girls in Nepal. They offer four-week education and empowerment program for girls from rural communities. Child-centred and interactive workshops are conducted daily by local female trainers. First they cover girl-specific health and safety issues, and then shift focus on developing confidence, public speaking and leadership skills. By the end of the workshops, the girls agree upon and implement a community project. Her Turn is innovative in putting girls at the centre of the decision-making process, empowering girls in particular to take control of decisions about their own life. One 13-year-old participant proudly declared by the end of the program, “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse. I'm studying hard to achieve this goal. Even if it will be difficult to become a nurse, I won't give up. I will invest in my education and work hard to become a nurse.”
In Kenya, Daraja Academy is a free secondary boarding school for girls whose innovative education model melds Kenya’s traditionally rigorous education curriculum with teaching practices like Project Based Learning, research field trips and community partnerships. Furthermore, weekly WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope) lessons focus on students’ self-sufficiency and active engagement. After students complete four years, they are invited to participated in a Transition Program unique to Daraja. The Transition Program is designed to give girls the life skills to best utilize their education after graduation. Through this program, Daraja girls develop a diverse set of skills in communication, accessing community resources, personal finance, entrepreneurship, and more. Faith, a recent graduate, stated at the graduation ceremony: "You have watched us grow from humble grounds. Right now we assure you that we've grown wings and we will fly even higher than you expect."
The Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) program is a 3 year, Girls Education Challenge Fund (GECF) supported project that is creatively and strategically targeting the 5 major barriers to girls’ access to education in Zimbabwe. World Vision, CARE and SNV Netherlands Development Organization are working together to sustainably impact communities through looking at all major obstacles to a girl’s success, layering each intervention to impact the most powerful stakeholders in a girl’s life. The IGATE program is uniquely innovative due to its multi-layered scope and its focus on more than one traditional education intervention, surpassing the normal aid route of highlighting and tackling one major issue and leaving other barriers to continue to negatively contribute to beneficiaries’ lives. In order to transform girls’ futures, IGATE is working with all “influencers” responsible for improving a girl’s situation through partnering with the Government of Zimbabwe, the local Community Based Organizations, the religious leadership, the School Development Committees (SDC), parents, the local traditional tribal structure and the girls themselves. Over the 3 year program, IGATE will be targeting approximately 48,997 school girls in 450 schools in 8 districts of Zimbabwe, 25,000 parents and community members and 12,500 school and religious leaders through five strategies.
By consistently seeking new ways to empower girls, we can address the challenges of girls’ education.