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Girl Determined Promotes LeadershipA program called Girl Determined promotes leadership among adolescent girls through a multi-faceted, engaged approach. In Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, it is common for young girls to grow up wishing they had been born boys. Despite progress and distribution of equal rights in developed nations, women and girls living in Myanmar still face extreme oppression today. Unfortunately, they continue to fight for some of their most basic human rights.

Women and girls regularly face issues such as gender inequality, violent relationships and extreme prejudice. 2016 Demographic and Health Survey found that 21 percent of women had reported experiencing physical, sexual or psychological violence from their partner. Researchers even believe that, given the authoritarian-style government in Myanmar, the real number is actually much higher.

Part of the problem is that girls between the ages of 12 and 17 lack the confidence and empowerment needed to speak up for their rights. In a nation where females are born into the expectation that they will remain subdued, gaining the courage to challenge the norm can be difficult. Girl Determined is working to change that.

The Program

The program is structured primarily around Circles. Circles are weekly after-school peer groups that provide young girls with a place to share their experiences and learn from one another. Currently, more than 2,000 girls across Myanmar participate in Circles. The meetings follow a curriculum that addresses five categories:

  1. Decision-making
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Building friendships
  4. Understanding cultural and religious differences
  5. Girls’ rights and planning for one’s future.

During the group sessions, topics can range from universal experiences among adolescents, like puberty and chore lists, to challenges exclusive to the female Myanmar community. For example, shared fears concerning the risk of sex trafficking, lack of education and violence witnessed in war.

To provide support for Circles, Girl Determined hosts an annual Girls’ Leadership summer camp, a Girls’ Conference and a number of athletic programs and campaigns. They are encouraged to keep a journal, plant seeds and participate in team sports. All of these opportunities are designed to put girls at center stage. Furthermore, the program intends to create an outlet to advocate for issues that inherently affect them.

The Impact

Through something as simple as open discussion and encouragement, participants are paving a brighter future for girls in Myanmar. Adolescent girls have become a marginalized group after decades of being taught to follow cultural norms and remain silent. Girl Determined promotes leadership, while also functioning as a platform for real change. Many of the girls who have participated in the program say it taught them to speak up, specifically against gender-based violence and has mobilized them to spark change in their communities.

In 2013, over 800 participants gathered for a conference in Rangoon to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Teenagers from Girl Determined advocated for policy change in the social welfare department. The local news even covered their statement. Since their statement, women’s organizations working closely with the government have implemented protection for girls into Myanmar’s National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women.

The Circles program is entirely voluntary, so the program measures its overall success is by retention of attendance. Across various project sites in Myanmar, attendance averages at 90 percent. Overall, this speaks to the power in how Girl Determined promotes leadership among young women.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Possible Female Leadership at the United Nations
Recently, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was time for women to lead the United Nations. As elections are approaching the end of the year, there are eleven candidates among which six are women. This could be a historic first time for female leadership at the United Nations since the organization was created 70 years ago.

Ki-moon said that it was high time now for a female leader. He further elaborated: “We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organizations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life. […] There’s no reason why not in the United Nations.”

Generally, there are strong voices that call for a woman leader. There is an impatient demand, which is higher than ever, for women to lead the United Nations. The female candidates definitely have their chances and it’s now their time to shine.

People are excited to see how a female leader would continue using soft power and coalition tactics to pursue U.N. goals. The new leader will set the tone and vision of the organization for the next decade. A female leader could definitely bring a much-needed change.

Furthermore, the women aspiring to a leadership role in the United Nations demonstrate interesting qualifications and well-experienced cadres. Many have worked in their respective governments but also in handling many projects related to the United Nations. Each woman candidate can bring a whole lot of shift in the U.N. with their diverse practical experience.

Women have been underrepresented in the United Nations. A new female chief will certainly address this critical issue. This is part of achieving gender equality on a global, leadership level. A female U.N. chief will also shed the light on women groups and issues related to feminism, education and equality that would otherwise be overshadowed by superpowers in favor of other issues.

Another interesting fact is that women make up almost half of the population of the world. However, they only hold 25 percent of the U.N.’s highest positions. Thus, having female leadership at the United Nations would significantly change the view of women worldwide. The world would see women leaders as equally capable of handling international crises with high qualifications and potential.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr