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June 14th, 2024
By Faith McNamara

Empowering Girls: Nurturing Confidence and Leadership

In a world where the voices of young girls are not always listened to, empowering them to go after their dreams, develop leadership skills, and advocate for gender equality is therefore inevitable.

Olivia Darby, the Chief Programmes Officer at WONDER, casts light on the practical steps and initiatives vital to uplifting young girls worldwide. The WONDER Foundation’s mission is to empower women, girls and their communities through access to quality education so that they can transform their lives and exit poverty for good.

Darby explains the vital role that mentorship, a supportive environment, education and contestation of gender stereotypes play in women and girl empowerment during our in-depth conversation.

Discovering Passions and Interests

Darby stresses the importance of actively listening to girls to recognise their dreams and aspirations. According to her, the best way to find out what stirs a girl's passion is to simply go up to her and ask – typical examples of which are missing from this culture.

She focuses on ensuring that girls have the adequate space and support they need to pursue their interests fully. "The space needs to be given to the women and girls to help them identify their dreams, and be able to develop and pursue their interests and passions", Darby adds.

Building Leadership Skills and Confidence

Darby believes in creating a supportive environment where girls feel safe to take risks and learn from failure. "Giving girls the opportunity to fail in safe ways is essential," she affirms.

She advocates for mentorship as a key component in empowering girls to realise their leadership potential. "Mentors provide advice and guidance, and they have the time and experience to support girls in constructive ways," Darby explains.

Ensuring Access to Education

Everyone should have access to education. This should include all girls in the UK, whether they are citizens, migrants or immigrants – it is a human right. Olivia Darby strongly expresses her feelings and calls for reform to ensure that young girls arriving in the country as immigrants and migrants get the educational chances they deserve.

The “education of these immigrant girls, just like any other, should not be restricted," says Darby, pointing to the fact that education is not only about developing skills but also a key to ending the cycle of poverty.

She highlights the crucial role of reforms that enable immigrant and migrant girls to attain education. Their path is usually narrowed by systematic hurdles like language barriers, discrimination and resource deficits.

"Reform has to happen to help improve the situation of immigrant and migrant girls missing out on learning opportunities", Darby emphasises. She talks of implementing necessary policies and initiatives that should give all children equal rights to receive education.

Imparting education to immigrant and migrant girls is a way to unlock their potential, thereby increasing the contribution of all to greater social and economic inclusion. "We talk about it a lot in an African context, but the fact that it's also happening here in the UK is a scandal," she emphasises.

Ensuring Access to Healthcare

Darby also discussed the evident disparities in women's healthcare, particularly those related to reproductive health. "We need higher education and support for girls [regarding] their reproductive health”. She stresses the provision of comprehensive and accessible reproductive health services.

Darby emphasises the value of teaching the girls everything necessary so that they may determine what’s good for their bodies and health on their own. Taboo topics such as sex, periods, and contraception should be dealt with carefully and taught to an age-appropriate standard.

“Girls are empowered with the accurate information and access to healthcare services that promote their overall well-being and autonomy." Therefore, it is also essential to have programmes that focus specifically on women's reproductive health as a key aspect of gender equality and human rights.

She recognises that preventive measures are necessary to guarantee that girls are equipped with confidence and authority to successfully traverse their reproductive health journey.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Media

Darby also spoke on the importance of diverse media presence and naturalistic expression of women and girls. Gender stereotypes are well known for curbing the possibilities of girls as they grow up, and it is necessary to fight against the limits, she argues.

Darby thinks this can be done by “helping girls think critically and be media literate”, so that when they engage with stereotypes they can stand up for themselves to assert who they are as individuals.

Advocating for Gender Equality

Darby emphasises the role of educating girls about their rights and persuading them to challenge injustice rather than accepting it. "Girls' education is the most important means of gender equality promoting and overturning gender roles," she stresses.

She calls for equitable approaches that prioritise girls from disadvantaged groups who experience specific types of challenges.

Economic and Social Empowerment

Darby starts by sharing success stories of programmes that have helped girls with their own economic standing and social lives. These include trade programmes and entrepreneurship projects. "Resources have to be increased to benefit more girls and generate a permanent effect," says Darby.

She proposes the development of laws and policies that promote the betterment of the lives of young girls in the country and throughout the world.

Family and Community Support

Darby highlights the importance of families in the generation of positive conducive environments where girls are appreciated and feel strongly urged to strive for their ambitions. "Families, after all, form an integral part in the process of strengthening and nurturing the ability of young girls to be independent and confident in themselves.”

In addition, Darby highlights the vitality of collaborating with the community in fashioning environments designed to propel girls to make lasting changes for the good.

Creating Safer Environments

Overcoming abuse and harassment stands high on the list of measures for organising a positive environment for young girls to be successful in future. Darby stresses once again the importance of integral measures which regard the underlying reasons for violence and put at the centre women and human rights respect.

"For us to have effective measures in place that address the core reasons of violence and which seek to create gender equality among people and respect for human rights” is the message Darby gets across.

She says that we must embark on a multi-faceted effort that “helps the survivors heal and educates communities about consent and healthy relationships”.

The practical steps are aimed at combating incidents of abuse and the idealistic contributions include raising awareness, influencing society on harmful norms and culture, to making respect and equality become the foundation.

The people responsible for the violation of individual rights should face justice. By addressing the root causes of abuse and harassment, we can create a safer environment where girls can demand their rights without the influence of violence.

The strategies of empowering girls should be viewed as a systemic mechanism to address the specific needs of the young while supporting their all-round development.

Olivia Darby provided viable measures and strategies to ensure that future governments worldwide are feminism friendly. Through doing so, we can establish a society where every girl starts her life with a chance at education, healthcare, and a mentor to guide her through life and support her dreams so they can come true.

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