Late in 2018, a report (from Kenya’s National Gender and Equality Commission, no less!) claimed that Kenyan boys were being left behind. “There has been an over-emphasis on the education of the girl-child,” the report stated, sparking a national debate: Are girls in Kenya being over-empowered?
The MATCH Fund’s Kenyan partner, Akili Dada, had something to say about that.
“What’s concerning for us is the fact that this report acknowledges the vulnerability of girls, but in the same breath, makes it look like supporting girls is equivalent to disenfranchising boys,” Akili Dada says.
Akili Dada, which means “brain sister” in Swahili, trains thousands of girls each year to be leaders and to innovate in their local communities. It’s no easy feat, considering generations of misogyny, colonialism, and invisibility.
That’s why Akili Dada approaches its work as a four-part journey: self-discovery, friendship, disruptive community engagement, and leadership. Girls in Akili Dada’s programs identify their own projects to meet a big need, such as bringing sex-ed to deaf education, building bridges across local wetlands, and creating a culture of solar energy in their hometowns. Alums have built apps for maternal healthcare, launched successful businesses, and have even run for Senate.
So, let’s leave ideas of “over-empowerment” in the past. In fact, in 2019, let’s ditch the term “empowerment” all together. Women and girls are already powerful. The only thing missing is (still) equality.