The International Day of the Girl was recently marked by the United Nations, on 11 October. It’s an initiative that has been running since 2012, and aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting empowerment and human rights.
It’s a sad reality that despite what we may experience and know to be true in our own lives, girls and women are still not treated as equal to men.
The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl is ‘With Her: A Skilled Girlforce.’
The UN says today’s generation of girls are preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Basically, if we don’t upskill our girls to get on the 4thIndustrial Revolution train, they will be left behind.
Of the 1 billion young people worldwide – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common.
What the UN aims to achieve this year is to bring together partners across the globe to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability. They are calling on all stakeholders to equip girls with transferable and lifelong skills such as critical thinking, creativity and digital awareness.
In many countries, negative gender stereotypes related to girls’ education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) still persists, and it can have a devastating effect, making girls doubt their own potential.
The results from this, minimizing girls’ potential through stigma, are revealing. Only about 39% of science researchers in South Africa are women. Globally, this figure is even worse and stands at 30%.
But the good news is that there are many local projects, right here in the Mother City, encouraging girls to get into STEM.
Code4CT is just one organization helping young women leverage technology for social innovation. They introduce girls to basic coding, and train them up to be exposed to possible job opportunities. The Dutch Consul General also celebrates the top 50 South African women in STEM based careers, from CEO’s of energy companies to math-researchers, as part of their annual #Inspiring50 awards. It’s vital that young girls can have strong female role models to look up to.
As the mom of a girl, I know how crucial it will be to encourage her to believe in herself, and to ensure that she has the absolute belief that she can do anything she wants.
After all, the future is female.
Liesl Smit – Senior Reporter and Anchor, Smile 90.4FM News