129 million girls across the globe are not in school, according to findings from the United Nations Children’s Fund. An indication that more still needs to be done to ensure girls have equal opportunities and access to education.
Education is one of the ways that we can bridge the gap between the opportunities available to boys compared to those accessible to girls. But more than that, it is imperative that schools also create an environment where girls can thrive and feel empowered.
There are many ways that schools can foster an environment that empowers girls and helps them find more leadership opportunities. In this blog, we look at how schools and society can create enabling environments for girls to break barriers and have equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
Over the years, several initiatives have sought to create leadership opportunities and access to spaces that girls couldn’t access in the past.
However, while this is all great, this has not moved the needle for girls, as they continue to have a lack of access to education, and the gender pay gap is still something prevalent even in 2023. Here are some ways to change the status quo and give girls better opportunities.
Creating safe spaces to foster ambition
Recognising that girls often face many barriers compared to boys, particularly in how they are encouraged to pursue their goals, it is crucial to establish safe spaces to nurture their aspirations. Creating a safe space for girls to reach for the stars begins at home.
Nonkululeko Mngomezulu, SPARK Assistant Principal, explains that, at school or home, we must create an environment enabling girls to pursue their goals and ambitions.
“Home is the first space that needs to be safe for girls to pursue their ambitions and aspirations as it acts as the foundation of their beliefs and outlook on life,” Mngomezulu says.
Additionally, the school needs to be safe, as that is where ambitions and aspirations develop and groom. Lastly, the community needs to be safe as this is where young girls must fulfil their dreams and aspirations without fear of discrimination or being inadequate.
Ultimately it is essential to create a safe space for girls to be liberated from fear, anxiety, and stress.
Empowering girls to challenge the status quo
Girls still face many barriers that stop them from achieving their goals and aspirations.
“In government/ leadership, you will find girls being discriminated against and undermined and seen as the weaker vessels who cannot make vital decisions,” Mngomezulu says.
Additionally, in sports, women still earn less than their male counterparts and aren’t celebrated like men who play sports.
“Creating a safe space will eliminate people’s false ideologies about girls/women and allow them to have a fair chance at any goal/aspirations/ambitions,” she says.
The impact of a supportive community
A supportive community can make all the difference, enabling girls to access more opportunities and overcome barriers. Parents, in particular, must serve as a secure haven.
Starting with affirming conversations, investing in their talents, and treating all children equally, parents, educators and society can create a foundation for their success, as passionately emphasised by Mngomezulu.
Educators, too, have a critical role to play.
They must prioritise the well-being of their students as much as their academic growth, finding tasks and activities that align with their individuality and aspirations. Avoiding the imposition of personal beliefs is key to fostering an environment that encourages girls to discover and pursue their unique paths.
Although some advances have been made in providing opportunities for girls, we’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s still a long way to go to guarantee equitable access, fair treatment, and the ability for girls to realise their full potential.