30 April 2012

Zimbabwe: Investing in Young Girls Is Smart Economics

EIGHTEEN-year-old Rangariroyashe Chipika is no ordinary young woman as she not only came out top of her Advanced Level class in the 2011 Cambridge Examinations but was also best student in her school. She had As in all her science subjects --

Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and Thinking Skills.

The long wait for Advanced Level examination results is always met with great trepidation and anxiety moreso by young women like Rangariroyashe who choose to venture into highly demanding subjects traditionally perceived to be the preserve for boys.

In describing how she managed to accomplish this feat, Rangariroyashe -- who hopes to pursue a career in medicine -- alludes to staying focused, prayer and most importantly a strong support base in the form of her family.

Rangariroyashe's achievements are an embodiment of "girls can do it" and celebrating such a feat goes a long way in inspiring countless other girls at a stage in their lives where they have to define their destiny.

Exceptional young girls disprove long-standing stereotypes that say for instance that boys are better at sciences than girls.

With the right kind of support, girls are going out there and grabbing their own destinies and those of their communities.

Young girls today face many pressures that could potentially scuttle their progress and success in this fast paced life.

In the most ordinary of circumstances, young girls in disadvantaged situations are worse off having to balance their domestic roles particularly in these trying times in Zimbabwe.

Women and girls are less likely to attend school than their male counterparts and often find themselves burdened with economic and domestic duties that rob them of childhood education.

It is the young girls and indeed the women-folk that some sections of society would rather sacrifice as they are made to spend long hours fetching water, caring for the sick, marrying at a tender age to supplement family income, peddling at the market and the like at the expense of going to school.

In current circumstances, the power of constant positive encouragement for a lot of young girls with promising potential cannot be underestimated, and society's role in safeguarding their future cannot be over-emphasised.

Young women need access to the right mentors and supportive social networks in order for them to thrive.

The Girl Effect Data (GED) generated by Nike Foundation suggests that investing in young girls can prevent poverty before it starts.

According to GED, one in seven girls in developing countries marries before age 15 and 70 percent of the world's 130 million out-of-school youth are girls.

A working paper released by the World Bank in 2011 estimates how powerful young girls can be in today's global society.

For example, the paper identifies that in Kenya, if all 1,6 million adolescent girls were to complete secondary school, the cumulative effect could add US$3,4 billion to that country's gross income annually.

Over the past century, there has been a transformation in women's educational achievements and general participation in public life.

Globally, more girls are going to school. But despite these tremendous wins, inequality can still be seen in persistent unequal opportunities, low representation of women in public office leadership and continuing violence in all forms against women.

Where women suffer the most inequities in accessing good education and productive assets, this deprives not only them but also the world of the realisation of their full potential.

Yet it is clear that when women are empowered, family welfare improves, more children go to school and incomes increase.

Investing in young girls is a strategic approach to achieving Millennium Development Goal No. 3, which seeks to "promote gender equality and women empowerment".

Girls are unique change agents. Igniting their potential and transforming their world starts a ripple effect for themselves, their families and their communities. Investing in girls is smart economics and a sure-fire way of effectuating sustainable development.

l For all enquiries, please contact ZWRCN on email: zwrcn@zwrcn.org.zw/ website: www.zwrcn.org.zw/ call on +2634 700250/252388/ visit ZWRCN offices at 288 Herbert Chitepo Avenue cnr Seventh Street, Harare.

Copyright © 2012 The Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.