The Women Deliver Conference, a global platform dedicated to gender equality and the promotion of health, rights and well-being of girls and women, took place for the first time this year in an African country, Rwanda. During this special milestone, Elisabeth (16 years old) and Prisca (15 years old), two members of our Children Advisory Committee (CAC) from Dialogue Works partner organization Children’s Voice Today (CVT), made their mark on the conference by making their voices heard.
From grassroots to global exchange
Elisabeth and Prisca’s participation in the Women Deliver conference underlined the essential role grassroots organizations can play in achieving real change within communities. These young members of CVT shared their experiences, challenges and testimonies gained through their involvement in the CAC meetings. These meetings discuss multifaceted problems faced by peers and others in the community. They raise the issues with local authorities and advocate for solutions that have a lasting impact.
Empowerment through knowledge
The CAC member Prisca proclaimed, “I need to know that boys and girls are equal.” Her words reflect the field of tension in which young girls like herself are moving, on the road to gender equality. She emphasizes the important role boys have as leaders in their communities, while recognizing that many young girls struggle to make their voices heard and their influence felt. Prisca also talks about how a girl with a disability, because of participating in the CAC, became more open and now goes to school because she still felt she could feel comfortable there. This example outlines the transformative power of their efforts, allowing marginalized individuals to recognize their own value and potential.
Don’t live in silence and fear but instead speak up, raise your voice to break down barriers.Elisabeth (16 years old)
Empowering voices for change
Elisabeth, CVT Children’s representative, emphasizes the crucial link between knowledge and empowerment. She believes raising your voice could lead to overcoming barriers and ultimately to real change. Elisabeth’s message to young girls is clear: they should no longer live in silence and fear but instead speak up, raise their voices to break down barriers. She believes diversity is important because, against society’s expectations, it can show what different types of people are capable of.
Challenges to overcome
Despite the many inspiring stories to be told about empowerment, it is vital to also recognize the persistent challenges that still stand in the way of gender equality. Girls are often silenced because they are unaware of their own rights. Cultural norms can further limit girls’ rights and opportunities by affirming the idea that education is secondary, especially for girls from rural areas. A lack of role models can exacerbate this problem, as girls in some cases do not believe that things could be different. However, Elisabeth aptly points out that culture shapes us, but can also be reshaped; unlearning harmful norms is just as possible.
A call to action
Elisabeth and Prisca’s stories powerfully illustrate the central role knowledge plays in promoting gender equality and empowerment. We are impressed by all that these girls have managed to achieve at a young age. At the same time, we see that the road to gender equality requires knowledge, empowering voices of especially marginalized individuals, which can lead to breaking down existing barriers. It is up to governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to work together for a future where every girl and woman understands the influence she can exert with her voice and has the space to express it.