Entering a Skilled Girls Force: Day of the Girl

Beautician sisters from DREAMS

In the small district of Temeke in Tanzania, the beautician sisters’ duo is so high in-demand with their clients, they hardly have time for anything else. “On Sundays when people want to go to the church, we are so busy with our customers,” says Irene adding: “Last week, my sister Leah and I were hired to go to another region to style and apply make-up to a bride!”

After dropping out of school for pregnancy and then losing her child at childbirth, 17-year-old Phoebe was devastated at the challenges she faced at such an early age. Today, she sells her own harvest to make enough profits to purchase goats, which further enhances her business in Uganda. With her growing business skills, she runs her household and saves money to put it to good use. She intends to start her own hairdressing salon very soon.

Not so long ago it would have been unusual for young women in these communities to produce and sell their own crops, have the skills and knowledge to start and run their own business, or travel to other places for work- particularly women who had been neglected by their societies due to unwanted pregnancies. It is important for a society to come together and empower girls to foster their talents and help them make decisions about their own lives. In this generation, skilled and educated workers are in great demand, and thus, girls everywhere need to be trained in a manner that prepares them to enter such a workforce. On October 11, International Day of the Girl, we as a global community need to draw attention to building these platforms for girls. Without taking the right kind of action that prevents girls from fulfilling their true potential, we will jeopardize a better future for the generation and hamper economic growth.

There is a need to craft strategies to tap into the potential of girls to contribute further in the economic sector. This goes beyond sending girls to school. A girl’s education is also about ensuring that girls feel safe in school while learning the skills that enables them to compete in the labor market. Thus there is a strong need to support for quality girls’ education to help them navigate and adapt to a changing world.

Besides ensuring that girls transition themselves into employment, it is important to ensure the proper promotion of a gender-sensitive learning environment that focuses on inclusive sexuality education. Early and unplanned pregnancies endanger mothers and their children; they are giving birth before their bodies are ready. This dramatically increases the number of school dropouts for girls. In most cases, they lack economic and moral support from their societies.

Today we think of girls like Leah and Irene who dropped out of school due to early pregnancy and later abandoned by their boyfriends for the same reason. All the people who looked down on them and thought that they were usual failures were proven wrong.  The sisters, who work as a team, are two of the 330 Adolescent Girls and Young Women who were trained by WEI/Bantwana in beauty and cooking skills. This was a part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge project that addressed multiple vulnerabilities of young moms and pregnant girls and helped them have a source of income. The duo is booked for another wedding event scheduled in October 2018. In addition, they have broadened their understanding of HIV/AIDS and have learned how to protect themselves. Building a learning environment safe for girls and sensitive to their needs can help solve the issues that these Happy girlssisters faced at a very early age. Delaying pregnancy is not only crucial to their health but also their financial opportunities.

Empowering girls by equipping them with skills of their interest will not only enhance the economy, but reduce the chances of early pregnancy, child marriage, and give the society more confidence to invest in their children’s education. Harnessing the skilled girl effect could significantly accelerate those opportunities. Invest in girls, they will handle the rest.