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Finding the Power

Posted 16 April 2024 in EMpower News   |   Share


Visiting EMpower’s partners on the ground is an incredibly moving, emotional, and thought-provoking experience. Out of a whirlwind of sights and sounds and stories, there is always a universal life lesson to take home. Having recently returned from India, I would like to share something that made me think about my own professional experiences and the world in general.  

Having heard of it so much over the years, I finally had the absolute joy of visiting one of the Adolescent Girls Learning Communities with long-time EMpower grantee partner Jan Sahas in Rajasthan.

The programme teaches girls how to recognise discrimination and understand the rights they are granted by law. It gives them the tools and confidence to speak up for themselves and their peers with community elders, schools, police, and local authorities. The list of their successes is long and substantial. They ran a campaign to identify school dropouts and help re-enrol them in school. They successfully championed among school authorities for the installation and replenishment of a machine to dispense sanitary products—a major obstacle to girls’ staying in school. They mapped dangerous spots across their villages and worked with local authorities to replace the lights to make them safer for women. They reported incidences of sexual violence and attempted child marriages leading to the apprehension of the perpetrators, prevention of further incidences of violence, and girls’ liberation.

Listening to the stories, confidently and passionately delivered, we could see the pride burning in their eyes. Breaking a generational cycle of marginalisation and abuse, overcoming humble surroundings and limited resources, they had experienced their first wins. They shared their dreams and ambitious plans.

This moving experience left me with some questions I’ve been pondering ever since: Is “giving” good enough without empowerment? Can you have dignity without agency? How can we do better as managers, mentors, and investors so our actions are focused not only on results but on pride and empowerment—and smiles?

I came away with a newfound appreciation for the inherent power and potential that girls have—if they are given the resources, environment, and support to tap into it.

A final thought: the Adolescent Girls Learning Communities in India are just one example of EMpower’s thoughtful, far-reaching, and innovative approach to enabling young people in emerging markets to build better lives. The first Learning Community was established in 2012 in Mumbai, and so far, 2,000 girls have participated in the programme in Mumbai, Delhi, and Rajasthan. You can find more about this amazing initiative here.  

I continue to be inspired by these girls and by EMpower’s work in making all this possible. Change is happening in villages and towns in India and beyond, much of it girl-led.

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