Amina Mohamed, founded Cameras For Girls to change the lives of girls and women in Uganda, through the power of photography.
Many organizations are working to empower women in Africa, but there’s still a long way to go. Today, we will talk about what empowerment means and why it’s essential for both men and women. But first, let’s talk about what women’s empowerment looks like in Africa specifically. Women in Africa are continuously fighting against cultural discrimination. In some African countries, they can only inherit or own property if they have a male guardian or relative who oversees their money. Women are also less likely than men to be educated on financial literacy or family planning options that could significantly affect their families and communities. You’ve probably heard the phrase women’s rights, but have you ever really sat down and thought about what that means?
Women’s empowerment has become a significant topic of discussion in the past several years, with movements like the #MeToo movement highlighting women’s rights and empowering them to stand up against sexual assault and harassment. However, women’s empowerment goes beyond preventing sexual abuse and encompasses all of how women are denied equal rights and opportunities compared to men in our society today. We’ll look at what exactly women’s empowerment means, how it impacts different populations of women, and why it’s so important to support and fight for it.
For this blog, we will focus specifically on women’s rights and empowerment in Africa, where our work through Cameras For Girls predominantly takes place.
Amina discussing a student’s images at the CFG workshop in Kampala, Uganda
What Does Female Empowerment Mean?
The term women’s empowerment has become so popular that everyone can agree on what it means. At its core, it simply means achieving equality between men and women in all sectors of society. Yet there are various ways to achieve it, including providing equal opportunities for employment, health care and education; promoting leadership roles for women in business and government; increasing access to resources; decreasing discrimination and creating public awareness about gender issues.
Women in Africa fought for their rights long before NGOs coined them. Some countries have laws in place to protect these rights, while others have none at all. Still, African governments are just beginning to adopt policies that focus on their well-being as critical catalysts of economic growth.
Closing the gender gap can make global change
The global gender gap isn’t going to close anytime soon. Experts have pinpointed several reasons why women in Africa lack equal opportunity with men—but they agree that empowerment can change all of that. According to research, closing Africa’s existing gender gap could boost GDP per capita by 10-26% and create approximately 184 million more jobs by 2025. A more balanced workforce in Africa could add $7 trillion to the continent’s economy over a decade and double African countries’ total number of available jobs. However, without direct action on women’s equality across all industries—and more opportunities for women entrepreneurs in particular—such economic gains will remain out of reach.
Elizabeth learning at the Cameras For Girls workshop in Kampala, Uganda
Women are a large part of our economy
Despite significant advances, women in most countries continue to be denied their fundamental rights. This also applies to women in Africa who, due to a lack of representation and resources, struggle against many forms of inequality. Women’s empowerment is about changing these long-standing challenges.
The United Nations defines it as how women and girls gain greater control over their lives and obtain equal opportunities to access power, decision-making and resources within institutions at all levels. However, a more complex understanding of what women’s empowerment entails includes giving them a voice within all areas of society—whether economics or politics—allowing them to take their rightful place alongside men in society today.
Equality for everyone
Every girl and woman in every part of our society deserves equal access to education, employment, health care, property rights and justice. Women should not be second-class citizens in any country. For all women everywhere to live their lives free from discrimination and violence – from fear of rape to domestic abuse – they need a level playing field where they can exercise their rights.
Furthermore, as part of our Agenda for Sustainable Development, we’ve instituted Goal 5, which means, among other things, striving for gender equality worldwide. Since then, we’ve embarked on an effort with some of our partners to mobilize support for the advancement of women’s empowerment in Africa, using photography as a means for empowerment.
Prisca showing Lydia the photo she took during the Cameras For Girls training
Real life examples
African NGOs have realized that empowering women is critical in achieving poverty reduction and promoting peace. Women are not only more likely to spend money in ways that benefit their families, but they also often work together in small groups, which reduces conflict and helps sustain peace. For example, our organization Cameras for Girls provides digital cameras to young women in Africa, endeavouring to become journalists to document their world, get paid jobs, and tell stories that matter to them. Our skills-based training empowers these young women on many levels:
- They get training on how to use a camera.
- They build skills and expertise.
- The cameras help them get paid work, either in media houses or as freelancers, owning their autonomy.
- They get mentorship to help them stay the course and achieve their goals.
Another example is The She Voice, a website started by a few of our previous students to empower other young women in Africa to use their voices to tell stories that impact society at large.
When women in Africa work together, work to lift each other up, and encourage one another, there’s no limit to how far they can go. Empowering females in Africa is not as hard as we think, but a collective movement across all levels is critical in achieving it, and it starts with us all.
Closing the gender gap can make global change The global gender gap isn’t going to close anytime soon. Experts have pinpointed several reasons why women in Africa continue to lack equal opportunity with men—but they agree that empowerment can change all of that. According to research, closing Africa’s existing gender gap could boost GDP per capita by 10-26 percent and create approximately 184 million more jobs by 2025. All told, a more balanced workforce in Africa could add $7 trillion to the continent’s economy over a decade and double African countries’ total number of available jobs. However, without direct action on women’s equality across all industries—and more
For this blog, we will focus specifically on the rights of women in Africa, as that is where our work through Cameras For Girls predominantly takes place.