Thursday June 12 2014

How can a girl be what she can’t see?

By Emma Jones

Recently Markus Goldstein of the World Bank spoke at the National Development Policy Forum, presenting a paper of accumulative research on gender, economic productivity and development in Uganda. One statistically relevant finding was the positive impact of sharing knowledge and entrepreneurial ambitions with young women and the subsequent increase in levels of employment and social sensibility.

Uganda is home to a large and young population who lack the economic shelter of formal wage opportunities. For those with a womb, gender specific realities can foster irreversible life trajectories; menstruation, young or unplanned motherhood, early marriage and the risks of giving birth all negatively impact the autonomy, schooling and business opportunities of girls.

With lack of simple resources like sanitary pads, female students are forced to miss school and fall behind in education. Such realities then stunt the likelihood of completing whilst the known experiences of a local community can become internalised to influence, conscious or otherwise, decisions to bear children or marry young.

The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programmes reviewed by the World Bank found that girls in ELA communities were 72 per cent more likely to be engaged in income generating activities and 44 per cent less likely to have had sex against their will in the previous 12 months compared to non-participants. Changes followed attendance at girls-only clubs, led by older peers that included financial literacy courses led by the interests and education levels of the girls in response to the demands of the local job market.

The inclusion of young women in sharing knowledge and tangible business skills supported with peer-led inspiration provide regular and opportunities for any girl to recognise and develop her economic and social responsibility. Vitally, aspiration and knowledge find increased value in dissemination and I suggest that fostering independent economic and social accountability amongst young Ugandan women does not need to remain the privilege of ELA programme participants.

There is no funding and no resources are required; just a proactive willingness to share knowledge, lived experiences and tangible skills between generations to help our young women grow.