On April 3, the U.S. Department of State’s acting under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, Ambassador Bruce Wharton, fielded many of your questions about women’s rights in a Facebook #YALICHAT. Topics included the importance of educating women and girls, the need for women entrepreneurs to serve as role models, and the special role men can play to promote gender equality.
Here are some highlights:
- Good scientific data shows the benefits of girls remaining in school. He said there is “clear evidence that they are far less likely to suffer health problems (such as HIV/AIDS and fistula), and far more likely to be able to generate enough income to support their families when they are ready for that.”
- In the fight against gender-based violence, traditional and religious leaders have vital roles to play. “There’s nothing more powerful than one of these leaders standing up against GBV and in favor of equality. Those leaders are out there — it is important to seek them out, encourage them to raise their voices [and] exercise leadership, and support them.”
- Community leaders in rural areas can play very progressive roles in recognizing and promoting women as full partners in local development and business. That and other support can help refute the notion that women can’t be successful business leaders. “There are also a lot of great women business leaders across the continent who can serve as role models and mentors.”
- Are you new to advocating for the rights of women and girls? “Start by modeling the behavior you want to see in others. Speak out if you hear someone saying something against women or children. Don’t be silent in the presence of prejudice. Inspire those around you to be just, and justice will spread. Ask your community, religious, and political leaders to do the same.”
- Men have an interest in women’s equality in addition to having a role to play. “It needs to start at home, from birth. Fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and older brothers need to be among the first to recognize the value of the girl, defend her, and promote her full capabilities.” It is critical to make sure “the women in your family and household are respected and treated well.”
- Remember to reach out to your government representatives and urge them to make gender equality a matter of urgency. “Societies need 100 percent of their people involved, not just 50 percent.”
How much do you know about the challenges women and girls face? Take the #Africa4Her quiz and tell us how you will be bold for change to make a difference in your own community. Then tell us about what you have done and follow the hashtag #Africa4Her to see what others are saying. Learn more at https://yali.state.gov/4her/.