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Celebrating Women’s Equality Day: Asante Africa’s Wezesha Vijana Program

Aug 25, 2020

Women’s Equality Day is August 26th, 2020 and with all that’s going on in the world (a once in a lifetime global pandemic, worldwide social justice movements and a historic election in America) the issue of women’s rights is front and center. Nowhere are women’s (and girl’s) rights more important than in the rural communities of East Africa. In many areas of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, cultural norms create gender barriers that prevent young girls from getting an education and excelling in school. As a result, young girls often lack the tools needed to not only become confident and self-sufficient, but professional young women. 

A bit later, we’ll walk through how Asante Africa Foundation is helping to change that narrative and make a positive impact on young women’s lives in East Africa. But first, a little context on Women’s Equality Day and what it means in 2020.

The History of Women’s Equality Day  

Women’s Equality Day was proposed by New York House Representative Bella Abzug in 1971 and passed in 1973 with a designated date of August 26. The date was significant as it commemorated the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. In 2020, we celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment.  

The movement to establish women’s right to vote began in the mid-nineteenth century, initially being advanced by over 300 activists at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. By the time the service efforts of women were being recognized for World War I (the irony of fighting for freedom abroad without completely having it at home was apparent) and support from women’s rights groups reached a fever pitch, momentum had swung.  

Fast forward to today and there’s still a long way to go in recognizing women’s rights. The issues of equal wages for equal work, workplace gender discrimination, control of their bodies and even a right to education in too many parts of the world are alarms that require all of our attention, and action. This is why Women’s Equality Day is as pertinent as ever and enjoys a special significance in 2020. 

Asante Africa’s Wezesha Vijana celebrates the spirit of Women’s Equality Day

As we celebrate the centennial of Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we’re proud that the Asante Africa Foundation’s mission is closely aligned to the purpose of the day. We’re committed to educating and empowering the next generation of change agents in East Africa. One of the mainstays of our foundation is the Girl’s Advancement Program (also known as WEZESHA VIJANA, meaning “empowering ourselves”). 

Through volunteers in East Africa, and across the world, the Wezesha Vijana Program focuses on three areas of education and empowerment for young girls: health & hygiene, finance & business skills, and finally social skills. 

  • By educating young women about sexual maturity, health and hygiene – topics that go unaddressed in school – girls become knowledgeable about their bodies and understand their physical needs, where before they might have felt shame connected with commonly held myths.   
  • By helping young women understand the nature of economic empowerment, they learn how to manage finances, set goals and become self-aware of their potential to create change.

  • By making self-esteem, peer support and networking a regular point of discussion, young women are learning the soft skills needed to advance academically, seize opportunity and perhaps most importantly, serve as mentors to each other.

As a result, the Girl’s Advancement Program has helped young women make healthier choices, directly improving their attendance in school and academic performance. In fact, 89% of girls at schools involved with the program demonstrate an improvement in their academics. 

In countries where girls and young women are likely to experience sexual violence, early marriage and denial of education it’s critical to support efforts that create positive outcomes. The Wezesha Vijana Program has helped eliminate FGM, decrease unintended pregnancy, and increase earnings and financial autonomy for young women.

Ways to celebrate Women’s Equality Day 

On August 26th, let’s celebrate by recognizing the women in our lives and giving words of support and encouragement for all they do, whether they are a student in rural East Africa or a corporate executive in the western world. 

Here are a few other ideas for celebrating Women’s Equality Day in 2020:

  •  Donate: During the pandemic, Asante Africa Foundation asks you to donate a “Youth Essentials Kit”; the kits alleviate some of the challenges girls are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis, and include all of the supplies and support a child in East Africa will need.

  • Register to vote: To honor the 70+ year struggle women went through to get the right to vote, every eligible person around the world should make sure they’re registered to vote in 2020 (and beyond).   

 

  • Learn & talk about: You can learn more about, or give your support to, the women’s organization of your choosing: examples can include UN Women.org, the World Health Organization’s gender rights effort, or the Malala fund.  

Written By: Christopher Bass