Empower one girl, transform a community

“Empower One Girl, Transform a Community:” a phrase I’ve heard before, but only truly hit home recently.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at a school in Soweto, Johannesburg that specializes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.) A truly remarkable school to say the least.

There, I met 17 year old Lesego. Lesego was part of a group of learners who built a Sling II Aircraft that recently flew from Cape to Cairo. She shared her story of how she was chosen to be part of the team who undertook this great feat. Although she had never flown, let alone been in an airplane, she was excited to contribute to this project and for the opportunity that was bestowed upon her. Lesego’s story is one of courage, a profound resolve and hope. Through sheer strength of will, she has taken control of her own future. What inspires me most about her is her belief in the power of education to change her life and the lives of those in her community.

Her journey has taken her to TV studios across the country, to schools, sharing her story and most recently, she was invited by President Cyril Ramaphosa to this year’s Parliamentary State of the Nation Address.

Meeting Lesego and engaging with her has reiterated the importance of empowering young women as a way to change the world and that education is a crucial first step to this.

Kathy Calvin, United Nations Foundation President & CEO, was quoted saying ; “ Girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world: When their rights are recognized, their needs are met, and their voices are heard, they drive positive change in their families, their communities, and the world.”

There are more than 500 million adolescent girls in the developing world today. Every single one of these girls have the potential to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, with ripple effects multiplying throughout her society.

There’s a beautiful quote I recently read and think is absolutely appropriate: “The hand that rocks the cradle, the procreator, the mother of tomorrow; a woman shapes the destiny of civilization. Such is the tragic irony of fate, that a beautiful creation such as the girl child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity.”

Girls have the power to change the world. And yet today, girls are more likely than boys never to set foot in a classroom, despite all the effort and progress made over the last two decades. More than 15 million girls of primary school age will never learn to read or write, compared to 10 million boys. I truly believe that a girls education not only empowers families, but it empowers communities and economies. A result of HER education, we all do better.

It is said that girls with dreams, become women of vision. May we empower each other to carry out such vision, because it isn’t enough to talk about equality. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to only believe in it, we must work at it. So let us work at it. Starting now.

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