A group picture of We Lead community of action facilitators and Restless Development Team
We Lead COA Facilitators at their Leadership BootCamp in Jinja, Uganda. The Blog Author Primrose Nanchani Manyalo is standing first from the far right.

International Day of the Girl Child: PowerShifting to achieve a gender equal world

Powershifting approach is key to achieving gender equality. Primrose Nanchani Manyalo shares how you can intentionally do it.

This year’s International Day of the Girl coincides with Restless Development’s strategy launch to demand a just and sustainable world through a power shifting approach.

We help grow female power every day in our work, providing growth opportunities for our staff and building female leaders in the communities we work in.  As we unite to demand action towards achieving gender equality, we recognise the broken system, the stark inequalities and how we need a collective approach to shift power to achieve true development, that is just and sustainable. 

Albeit the proliferation of policies, legal frameworks and promises made in SDG 5, we are lagging far behind, in terms of achieving gender equality. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Gender snapshot, “at the current rate of progress, it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality.” We cannot wait that long! 

How can we intentionally shift power?

  1. Trust young girls and women to truly lead.

 I believe that the time is not now, but is overdue. We need this rude awakening right from the beginning; We will not tackle the biggest challenges facing our world, like climate change, if we leave almost half of the world’s population behind 

In Africa, women carry the burden of household work, but often, they are left out of critical decision-making spaces or interventions to tackle climate change. Yet women bear the biggest brunt of its effects. If we tap into their potential, give them leadership skills and resource their ideas, they can play a big part in addressing challenges around climate change.

This is evident in young female leaders like Greta, who did not wait to be called to the decision-making table.  Her initiative led to more than 7.6 million people protesting in September 2019 alone. By November of that same year, more than 17,000 students from 24 countries began to take part in Thunberg’s Friday school strikes. This is a clear indication that young girls and women can lead and influence change,  but there is a need to multiply this leadership, trust and fully resource them, for greater impact.

  1. Recognise the diversity and context of young girls and women. 

There is a need to shift towards context-appropriate, locally made approaches, taking note of the different challenges faced by different young girls and women. A one size fits all approach will not work. It will perpetuate the injustices our world faces and result in further marginalisation and compromise of gains made to address injustices facing young girls and women. 

Special attention must be given to traditionally excluded groups like BIPOCs, young girls with disability, in rural communities, the internally displaced, and those identifying as LBTQI… amongst many others. We must intentionally work to remove the barriers they face. 

  1. Challenge harmful cultural practices, which compromise the wins made towards gender equality. 

Harmful religious, cultural practices and beliefs that lead to discrimination are driven by patriarchy. This leads to young girls being deprioritised in education, investment and opportunities to become independent. Tackling the cultural practices that hold young women and girls back, will help create opportunities to stay in school, occupy leadership positions and take more control of their lives. 

  1. Adopt a holistic approach.

While we can trust young girls, resource and build their leadership, this is not enough to transform our world for the better. We must adopt a holistic approach, in which young girls can truly lead with the power to define their own agenda, and influence for a more sustainable future. 

Decision makers, on the other hand, must have the political will to listen, and then act to put the needs of young girls and women first. Development plans and budgets must reflect this shift, with shared spaces for young girls to map their development priorities and lead in shaping their own futures.

At Restless Development, our Powershifting Checklist ensures the work we do continues to shift power, creating a world where all youth (including young girls) can thrive. We hope that now, more organisations will take up this approach, committing to real, practical steps to transform power structures.  Only then, will the power and potential of girls not just be celebrated on days like today – but guaranteed. 

Featured image caption: We Lead COA Facilitators at their Leadership BootCamp in Jinja, Uganda. The Blog Author Primrose Nanchani Manyalo is standing first from the far right.

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International Day of the Girl Child: PowerShifting to achieve a gender equal world

by Primrose Manyalo Reading time: 3 min