I have recently read the inspiring autobiography from Elizabeth Nyamayaro, “I am a girl from Africa”. It is the true story of a poor girl, raised by her grandmother, who literally rose from the dust of the Zimbabwean highlands to playing a significant role in establishing the internationally renowned gender equality movement HeForShe. It is a story of a girl, who persevered against all odds and who created opportunities through sheer self believe and hope. Hope for children and woman, hope for access, hope for health, hope for education, hope for equality. And the believe that she can play a role in that.
Living and working in Africa, we are confronted daily with the disparities of the spoken word (be it from pulpits or politicians) to the realities of a broken society: Underage girls being forced into marriage, gender-based violence, girls dropping out of school to care for the family, girls lured into false hope and being subject to human trafficking, sexual harassment, unequal pay for woman etc. From the trenches of poverty to the boardrooms of big corporates. It is a harsh world, an unfair world, and more so if you are a girl.
The situation in Afghanistan inevitably brings this to the forefront again. We hold our breath as we wonder what atrocities girls will be subject to. We stand helplessly, we pray, we campaign on social media, we criticise, we debate. And we cry out, against forces outside our control. And amidst the chaos, an unknown girl is standing in the glaring sun, tears streaming down her dirty face, washing away the last flicker of hope in her eyes, as it falls into the dust at her feet…
In these uncertain times, our hearts yearn for the plight of girls, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in South Africa, in Portugal. In the World.
In the words of economics Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, “poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realise one’s full potential as a human being”. Imagine a world where girls feel safe, where they have access to education and opportunities, where they have freedom of choice, where they can realise their full potential.
Honestly, I must do introspection as well. Whether it is stereotyping at school, humour between friends or subconscious discrimination at work. We should be sensitive and cautious to how our words or actions contribute to that girl crying in the sun.
That said, we can, and we should, do so much more. Africa is rife with potential, and a lot of that potential is locked up in woman. We all win if that potential is unlocked. Let’s take a moment to consider how we conduct our business or how we can contribute through resources, opportunities or skills, to the cause of equality and the cause of woman.
And then put that into action.