(WOMENSENEWS)–Kofi Annan, the seventh U.N. secretary general, knew empowerment was key in 2005 when he said, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” Turns out it’s good tool for girls in 2016, too.
At least this is what For Girls GLocal Leadership, or 4GGL, found in its Women’s Empowerment Global Survey. The results, “Voice & Choice: What Young Women Want,” were released this spring. The survey found that 60 percent of the young women interviewed see themselves as the main catalyst for change. What they desire most is personal development that will lead to more control over their lives.
The Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization surveyed 145 females, including adolescent girls and young-adult women, and 22 men from 26 countries, including Australia and those in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and diasporas in the United States. They found that girls need to feel they have a voice and the power to create change in their own lives in order to achieve their personal, educational, societal and career goals. One survey-taker from Jordan said voice is “both our right and duty.” This comment reflects what the survey found that girls strive for, yet in both economically rich and poor countries, only 30 percent of girls and young women use their voice regularly, according to the report. For at least one participant, voice was a “space to speak, and listen with love and understanding.”
While 69 percent of the young women found female role models in their families or in global leaders, many cited their governments, their society and their communities as muffling their voices. Traditional media also came under attack. Movies, music and advertisements made girls feel powerless. However, family and friends were found to be the most supportive of speaking freely and honestly and social media platforms like Facebook were found to provide the most opportunities for voice.
Participants were also asked to address what they thought the biggest problems facing women were in their society. Respondents in Asia, the Middle East and Africa spoke of sexual violence, gender discrimination and domestic violence. In Western European and North American cities, young women spoke of a glass ceiling created by societal expectations.
The report points out that women who are empowered feel as though they have the ability to voice their opinions freely, and this contributes to the ways girls make changes in their lives and subsequently within larger systems. 4GGL research found that this change was most able to occur when girls felt they had attained self-awareness. While age, maturity and education are important catalysts for growth, “knowing who they are” is the key to real positive change in their lives. Forty-six percent of respondents identified self-reflection about who they are, self-worth, purpose in life and connecting with their inner strengths as their biggest catalyst for change. They understand that leading by example is often so much more effective than simply leading.
Both females and males responded that the biggest issue facing women in their countries was rape or sexual violence. Both sexes saw a need for more respect for women.
Choice and self-control are also important. According to a survey, girls were found to have the most control in education and the least in their careers. However, many in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East still struggle for basic human rights. One girl responded: “The situation in Iraq in general [is very bad], not only “no peace” and destruction, but also psychological and social state of people around me” is very messed up.
As the survey illuminates, the key to solving larger societal issues such as violence, war and terrorism is empowering women to find their voices. Although education still lies at the forefront of this empowerment, the survey shows that personal development and empowerment are essential to solving issues perpetuated by men and an overarching disrespectful view of women, like the culture of rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, child marriage, war, gender discrimination and social pressure to conform to gender norms.