The Power of Voice for Women and Girls
Firelight Foundation intern Kathryn Kemper shares how her experience working in Kenya and at Firelight led her to recognize the power of voice for women and girls worldwide. As a young woman I’m continually reminded of the importance and power of voice. Historically the voices of girls and women have been silenced. However, as a young woman in the US, I also recognize my own privilege to voice my opinion and negotiate for my rights. These privileges may seem basic, but they are not automatically granted to girls and women on a global level. I believe that everyone has something to learn from the stories of girls, and every girl has a story to tell. By recognizing girls’ voices we acknowledge their power to transform the world.
When I first started interning at Firelight in October of 2014 I was excited for the opportunity to work with a local NGO that developed and advocated for community organizations in Africa. A month prior I had returned from Kenya after volunteering at the Power Women Group: a community based organization of women that worked to educate young women in the Kibera slum of Nairobi to promote self-sufficiency and reduce the prevalence of HIV and poverty. As a white woman in a community run by African men, there were many times in Kenya when I felt like an outsider, as if my voice didn’t have a place there. But the members of the Power Women Group emphasized the capacity of girls and women to recognize our voices as tools to create change in a patriarchal society. After working with and learning from the incredible women in this group, I had reclaimed my own voice and came home wanting to use it to create change for girls and women on a global level.
Finding Firelight and becoming involved with a group that shared my ambition renewed that feeling. When I learned about Firelight’s Girls Empowered project, I felt even more connected to the work I was doing. This initiative recognizes the impact of educating and empowering girls, allowing them to take an active role in advocating for their own rights and education and ending poverty for themselves and their communities. By enabling girls to share their own experiences through digital storytelling, community organizations encourage girls to feel powerful and help others recognize this power. As a result, young women take responsibility, the adults around them begin to address common problems, and the community thrives.
The Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey said, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” By emphasizing the impact that educated and empowered girls can have within their communities and supporting them as agents of change, we can take a part in bettering local communities, and in turn the global community.