Empowering Girls in the 21st Century


In a continuously shifting 21st century climate, with burgeoning youth demographics, changing geopolitical and local dynamics – how can we advance youth and children's rights to empowerment and leadership? Facing security threats and deepening instability in many corners of the world, what does it take for a girl to become empowered today?The CARE education team spearheaded a wide-based consultative effort in late January 2015 to develop responses to these questions.


Bringing together over 50 leading experts and practitioners across the fields of education, technology, academia and humanitarian action, the consultative workshop mixed interactive panel sessions and hands-on group work to inspire debate and dialogue on these issues, driven by a human centered-design approach facilitated by the education consulting firm EdIntersect.


A number of themes emerged throughout the workshop.


One was a broad agreement on the power of technology for girls’ empowerment. Going beyond simplistic perspectives that see mobile phones or tablets as the panacea to girls’ education challenges, participants agreed that technologies represent tools with potential to complement broader efforts to advance learning. WorldReader highlighted how technology can help increase our understanding of children’s learning needs. Team4Tech emphasized the potential of software to adapt to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics demand in South Africa.


Richard Rowe, Founder and CEO of Open Learning Exchange, affirmed the need for development thinkers and practitioners to respond to the changing dynamics of international development. In a world with a rising global south, development must be rethought from the bottom-up. He suggested that to match this need, the lexicon and language of development must shift. The terms of development “intervention,” Mr. Rowe underscored, “designates a power relation.” A power relation that requires reimagining if girls are to be empowered to achieve their aspirations in today’s world.


The workshop is timely, as the world responds to rising risks for girls' education, with the threats of defunding, plateauing literacy gains and of violent attacks. As the post-2015 global dialogue concludes this year in defining a framework for sustainable development, maintaining youth and adolescent's empowerment as a cornerstone of the international community's efforts is critical to removing barriers to learning -- and to facilitating empowerment as the key to achieving all the other goals set to be agreed.


In these shifting sands, an overarching vision of girls' empowerment requires development of monitoring systems to hold leaders, governments and communities accountable to responding to global and local needs. As Head of the Secretariat of the UN Girls' Education Initative, Nora Fyles stated, “Engaging how the UN post-2015 constructs indicators for tracking girls' education is critical. It’s a major gap in how the post-2015 agenda is being framed.” The workshop generated new questions to consider.


And the conversation is just beginning.


What do you see are the next steps? We look forward to furthering this dialogue with you at #Girlsempowerment and via this blog.

By: Christopher Kuonqui, Education Team, CARE USA