Nimatu, a girls’ education activist in the CAMFED Association in Ghana, working to change the status quo. Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell

By Joana Guo, Senior Program Officer, CAMFED Ghana

There is definitely something wrong with people who sit on the fence, those who refuse to get involved, those who will not lift a finger or raise their voices to correct a wrong or help others. They are like the load that the rest of us have to carry along. They do not make things better, they are just occupying their share of the world and making no contributions. The police officers who looked on unconcerned while their colleague meted out the outrageous atrocity to George Floyd are a perfect example of how doing nothing can wreak havoc in our society. What is even worse is that many of us are guilty of this crime.

In this technological age, many of us proudly record and circulate fighting incidents, accidents, or hideous crimes to humanity without actually attempting to lift a finger to help the victims.

These situations are not far from us, especially when we think about the abuses and injustices that people face around the world. Injustices that include racial discrimination, extreme poverty and sexism.

“We can make a significant change in the history of humanity if we collectively fight the injustices in our society.”

The few who attempt to stand up to the injustices and abuse in society are often further victimized because they are the minority. We can make a significant change in the history of humanity if we collectively fight the injustices in our society.

Many girls and women face injustice and inequality in our homes and society. It is difficult to comprehend why people look on unperturbed as abuse and injustice persist in our communities. Through deep inequities and ingrained poverty, school girls are forced out of school and into marriage, or never get the opportunity to access and complete an education — and choose their own path — in the first place.

Millions of girls still face the deep injustice of early marriage, early pregnancy and a lack of access to quality education. Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell

Women continue to be at risk of violence in their own homes and society, emotionally and verbally abused, and only very few people are raising concerns about this, while others just look on. Gender inequality continues to persist in the workplace as women are paid 16% less than men, and only 1 in 4 managers are women.[1]

“We can all play a role in changing the statistics for the better.”

Despite the increased participation of women in the formal work sector, women on average do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men, with long-term consequences for their economic security. [2] The statement issued by the Executive Director of UN Women on 6th April 2020, describes violence against women and girls as a shadow pandemic to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because lockdowns and confinements have resulted in rising calls for help to domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world. Even before COVID-19, 243 million women and girls aged 15–49 had been subjected to sexual or physical abuse by an intimate partner in the past 12 months. [3] Many fear this will be further exacerbated by the global pandemic. We can all play a role in changing the statistics for the better.

Pearl meeting with traditional leaders here in Ghana. It takes brave and collective action to address injustice. Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell

Pearl Nikki Quarmyne, a member of the Association of women leaders educated with CAMFED support, epitomizes this collective action. She and her fellow CAMFED Association members work together with communities and stakeholders to overcome barriers to girls’ education and women’s empowerment, even during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pearl undertakes radio sensitizations, engaging with communities around the impact of school closures on girls and their learning, which can be compromised by the pressures girls face to earn an income, do chores, care for relatives, help find food, or even marry in the hope of financial support in the face of hunger.

“This is the kind of activism we all need to seize. You are part of the problem if you choose to keep quiet in the face of injustice and abuse.”

Pearl emphasizes the need for everyone to work together to ensure all girls return when schools resume. Pearl also continues to lead collective action as a Core Trainer of CAMFED “Learner Guides,” young women mentors and role models delivering a life skills and work readiness curriculum called My Better World, which has now moved to radio and small group sessions. Learner Guides enable both boys and girls to navigate the barriers in their lives, focus on their education, and gain confidence and agency.

Pearl and her sisters in the CAMFED Association addressing inequities by supporting the most marginalized learners with radio sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic here in Ghana.

Pearl and her sisters in the CAMFED Association have lived social injustice. They believe in the power of getting involved and making a difference. She says, “The world we live in is not a matter of having…it’s about giving. I am not only dreaming about changing the world. I am changing it.”

This is the kind of activism we all need to seize. You are part of the problem if you choose to keep quiet in the face of injustice and abuse. You have a voice - speak up! You have a responsibility for creating a more humane society for generations unborn.

“You have the power to change your community for the better; use this power.”

Rise to this responsibility. You have the power to change your community for the better; use this power. It is not OK to sit on the fence; in fact, it defeats the very purpose of your existence. You are a living being, you do not just exist, so live your life with purpose. I end this piece with one of the famous quotes from Albert Einstein, which underlines the core message in this piece.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

Joana Guo. Photo: CAMFED/Joseph Assah Mills

Joana Guo has eight years of experience as a development practitioner, focusing on education programming, women’s empowerment and regional development planning. She is a Senior Program Officer at CAMFED Ghana, working to support girls and young women from marginalized communities to go to school, learn, thrive and become leaders in their communities.

As members of the CAMFED Association, educated young women used their lived experience to rally community members and other duty bearers around those most vulnerable, with the aim of changing the status quo to make the world a better, safer, more equitable and more just place for all of us.

If you are ready to support African girls to learn and lead, why not get involved today?

Footnotes

[1]UN Women. WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN REVIEW 25 YEARS AFTER BEIJING. (2020) ISBN: 978–92–1–127072–3 Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/gender-equality-womens-rights-in-review-en.pdf?la=en&vs=934 (Accessed 8 June 2020)
[2] Ibid.
[3] UN Women (April 6, 2020) Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic. Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. Available at:
https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic. (Accessed 8 June 2020)

We catalyze the power of the most vulnerable girls and young women to create the future they imagine — for themselves, for their communities, and for Africa.

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