If we are going to empower young African women and build a stronger civil society we need to be first honest with ourselves as youth workers. We want to give girls the chance to create positive change so we have to understand the things inside of us that are resisting this. Many of us, deep inside, favour people from our own cultural, religious, ethnic or social background. Even if we don’t think we do, this is something we are raised with. We cannot perpetuate this in our youth clubs.

Youth Worker, Kenya

All of us are the product of our environments, and one of the ways that humans simplify the world is by putting other people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories, safe and unsafe. In one way this protects us, but in the long term, it harms us all. If we automatically dismiss someone because they are from a different background, we perpetuate division and cut off the opportunities that come from friendship and collaboration with those who may have opposing views. 

These divisions affect our everyday lives in the African countries where we are leading youth clubs. Whether it is entering a room and finding people switching to a language they know you don’t speak, or negative stereotypes harming women socially or at work, we have a responsibility, again, to model, as youth workers, what we want to see. 

We also see the social divide opening up in countries as some people have become very rich, and segregated themselves from others through their choices of exclusive neighbourhoods, schools and social activities.

Reflection Questions

  1. What languages do we use in our activities?
  2. How do we price activities or what equipment do we require girls to have at home to participate?
  3. Do we choose activities that would exclude girls from poorer families?
  4. How do we talk about politics, especially in countries where political parties and ethnic or regional priorities are often aligned?
  5. What cultural events do we celebrate?
  6. How do we ensure that our leaders reflect the diversity we would like to see and demonstrate that women from different backgrounds can be leaders?
  7. Are our activities perpetuating social divisions, deliberately or simply because our work mirrors the world outside?
  8. Does our leadership reflect the diversity we’d like to see?

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