#SheDecidesDay: Standing Up & Speaking Out

SheDecides is about all of us who want to see a world where women and girls are free. Free from oppression, free from force, and free to make their own choices about their future.

SheDecides Day will kick-off during the 2018 Flagship Event in Pretoria, South Africa on 1 March 2018. It will mark the expansion of the SheDecides movement and the creation of local and regional movements for SheDecides. The Eastern and Southern Africa region has a history of commitment to women’s bodily autonomy (as outlined in the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action). The Government of South Africa has committed to expanding the East and Southern Africa region’s involvement with SheDecides, together with the Government of Denmark, and supported by UNFPA’s regional team (ESARO) and the SheDecides Support Unit.

2 March 2018 will be SheDecides Day, where the first national SheDecides movement will be launched in India. The day marks one year since the transformation of SheDecides from a fundraising mechanism and a hashtag into the rallying call of a unique movement, with support all over the world, and generating action in countries. It is a day to take bold steps to achieve the vision of a world where girls and women make their own choices – a world where SheDecides.

SheDecides Day empowers and emboldens supporters, champions and friends to stand up, speak out, and use their unique skills, voices and networks to continue to grow and co-create the movement. On this day, champions and friends of SheDecides will be holding events all over the world to promote the vision of the SheDecides manifesto.

Since the Manifesto was launched in July 2017, SheDecides has mobilised 35 global champions from all regions and walks of life, including Ministers from across Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), Africa (Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa), Afghanistan and Canada. Currently, Ministers from Finland and South Africa, and the Executive Director of MexFam, serve as leaders of the group of Champions.

Almost 40,000 individual friends and over 100 organisations have signed the manifesto, aligning themselves with the vision and pledging that they will take action. Friends are citizens, organisations, governments or private parties that publicly support the goals of SheDecides and commit to taking an action to contribute towards a world that is braver, stronger and safer for girls and women – and for everyone.

Objectives of the Flagship Event:

● To encourage more leaders from governments, parliaments and youth-led organisations, in particular from the East & Southern African region, to stand up and speak out for SheDecides

● To identify concrete steps forward to change the rules, laws and policies in a broad range of East & Southern African countries

● To place young people at the heart of the SheDecides movement, building on powerful initiatives that meet their needs, including South Africa’s She Conquers initiative

● To emphasise the critical role that national, regional and global parliamentarians can play in advancing the SheDecides movement

Expected Outcomes of the Flagship Event:

● Boost the visibility of the SheDecides movement, especially in the East & Southern African region

● Share best practices in an innovative way to inspire others

● Identify priority actions, ideally per country, focused on standing up and speaking out, changing rules, laws and policies and unlocking resources

● Mobilise new friends and champions from the East and Southern Africa region to join the SheDecides movement

SheDecides Flagship Event will embody the values and approach of the movement, and will focus on the central role of youth and adolescents and their challenges with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The event will not only be about youth, but youth will play a central role. As voters of tomorrow and essential change agents, youth will participate alongside parliamentarians, Champions and ministers. It will be a chance for actors to come together to promote the vision of the SheDecides Manifesto, and to work for change in countries where impact is most needed.

Dorothy Atimango from Kitgum, Uganda, sharing her perspective in support of the SheDecides social media campaign.

Prior to the Flagship Event, SheDecides launched a social media campaign to gather the voices and perspectives of young people in the region on what they believe a world where SheDecides would look like. The campaign received views from young people all over the region whose submissions will be featured in the flagship event proceedings.

Follow the SheDecides Day proceedings on social media and using the hashtag #SheDecides or #SheDecidesDay and join the engagement from anywhere in the world!

CSW62 Offers Hope for Rural Women & Girls

Last week, women’s rights organizations around Africa convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a regional meeting. The aim was to agree on priorities within issues that affect women and girls in rural areas of Africa.

The meeting (CSWAfrica) was hosted by the Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) together with Africa’s steering committee and delegates, and the purpose was to set the agenda ahead of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) being held in March 2018. The theme of CSWAfrica – ‘Securing African Rural Women’s Footprint at CSW62 & Beyond’ – was in line with this year’s CSW priority theme: ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and Empowerment of Rural Girls and Women’.

The strategic meeting called upon African rural women to share their realities to influence policies that could lead to gender equality.

It’s important to note that rural women constitute more than a quarter of the world’s population. Rural women are leaders, producers and service providers. Their contribution is vital to the well-being of families, communities, economies and the overall achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.

Moreover, rural women account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of food grown in the world, and still perform most of the unpaid care work. Yet their rights and contributions have largely been overlooked.

Rural women continue to experience unequal opportunities within healthcare, education, infrastructure, food security, nutrition, technology and general access to information. They can be disproportionately affected by gender based violence, sexual exploitation, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriages and are often subsequently denied access to justice.

Rural women can face more difficulties than men in accessing public services, social protection, employment and markets due to cultural norms, security issues and the formidable lack of identification documents. Women without identification cards cannot access healthcare, education, pensions, applications for property title or deeds and other social services. They are also unable to exercise their right to vote.

Additionally, while women have equal property ownership and inheritance rights, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide.

Even where governments have put legislations and policies in place to protect the rights of rural women and girls, their realization still remains a pipedream due to lack of awareness. Continued gender imbalances with our patriarchal society jeopardize the realization of existing laws and policies.

Conferences such as CSW provide a valuable platform for nations to focus on the acceleration and implementation of regional and global declarations geared towards the achievement of gender equality. CSW62 offers a perfect opportunity for building alliances to achieve gender equality and to empower rural women and girls.

“You can judge a nation, and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and its girls.” – Barack Obama

Keep girlsglobe.org Raising Voices in 2018!

We have a very exciting announcement!

Girls’ Globe is launching a crowdfunding campaign to allow us to continue to amplify the voices of women and girls in 2018.

We don’t know about you, but here at Girls’ Globe we feel it’s more important today than ever before to invest in spaces where the experiences, opinions and ideas of girls and women can be shared, heard and appreciated.

In light of the events and politics that have dominated our news headlines and social media feeds throughout the past year, from Women’s Marches taking place in almost every corner of the planet, to attacks on women’s health, to a global outpouring of solidarity against harassment with #MeToo, there can be no doubt left in anyone’s mind – a single voice holds great power, and a chorus of voices can change the world. 

It also feels more important than ever to take more time to sit back and to listen – not just to any voice, but to a voice that sounds different to the ones we’re used to hearing day in, day out. Girls’ Globe offers not only a platform to amplify the opinions and ideas of our global community of feminists, advocates and change-makers, but also an invaluable source of information for anyone, anywhere, who is looking to learn and find inspiration to take action of their own.

We are a tiny team supporting a big network of brilliant, creative and passionate people who voluntarily contribute their time, skills and talents. Girls’ Globe runs with almost no overhead costs – our team work remotely all over the world using low-cost, innovative digital tools.

But for us to continue to run girlsglobe.org in 2018, we’re asking our beloved readers and supporters to help us become financially sustainable (there are lots of perks in it for you, too!).

If Girls’ Globe has been useful, informative or inspiring to you, please take a minute to keep us publishing articles, amplifying women and celebrating progress.

Any donation – big or small – is hugely valuable.

You can also support us by lending your networks and social media reach, so please share our crowdfunding campaign as far and wide as you can! None of us can do it alone, but together, we can create a world that is fairer, more equal, and more united. If that sounds like something you’d like to be part of, donate today.

Fight For Girls, Not Against Them

It feels like just yesterday I was huddled outside my school classroom with five other pigtailed girls, swapping cards or singing along to good old Gwen Stefani. (Shoutout to Gwen for being my fashion inspiration and role model for pretty much my entire childhood.)

Female friendships start off as innocent, symbiotic relationships. As little girls, we seemingly have no worries and – if your childhood was anything like mine – days are filled with endless dress-up parties, goofy sing-alongs and formidable-fort-building. But at what point do we blur the lines and turn these innocent relationships into carnivorous competitions?

Welcome to the world of female competitiveness, where beneath the sisterly front runs an undercurrent of tough rivalry.

I think one of the reasons some of us fight so hard for women’s empowerment among women is because of personal experience of competition and backlash from fellow women. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to be sucked in – especially for young women. You may not even realize it’s happening, as it begins very subtly throughout teenage years. Whether it’s someone degrading you in front of others, talking about you negatively behind your back, trying to delay your success in order to accelerate their own, or doing something to make you look bad on purpose – you are a victim. It’s like a competition you never signed up for and didn’t agree to take part in – but the good news is, you don’t have to be part of it.

RULE NUMBER ONE: Don’t let negativity take over your teenage years – I can’t stress this enough! There are far more important issues that need your valuable time and attention. People who want to succeed by seeing you fail just have selfish motives – it’s their problem – not yours. It’s easier said than done, but try to focus your attention on yourself rather than worry too much about what others are doing.

RULE NUMBER TWO: Whether or not you’ve ever been guilty of any of the above (most of us have, even if we weren’t aware of it at the time), it’s the responsibility of all women and girls to focus on empowering & uplifting each other. It’s such an important skill to be able to admit to our own mistakes and then actively try to change our behaviour. Don’t let pride prevent you from growing.

One question I’ve been thinking a lot about is whether we are actually competing with other women or, ultimately, with ourselves – with how we think of and perceive ourselves. For many of us, we look at other women and see a ‘better’, smarter or prettier version of ourselves. Do we even acknowledge the other woman as an individual? It’s like a mirror that reflects an inaccurate version of who we are, but we turn on the mirror itself because it’s easier than exploring the real insecurities behind the reflection we see. And so…

RULE NUMBER 3: You are enough. Don’t let anything or anyone make you believe otherwise. You don’t need recognition from others to believe it. You don’t need to pull other women down to believe it either. When we each focus on being the dominant force in our own universe, rather than invading other universes, we all win.

As women, we experience enough unfair competition, backlash and discrimination in our lives. We certainly should not experience it from fellow women, too. We are here to support, appreciate and encourage each other.

Our fight should be for, not against one another.