Not a moment of silence on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2013 by

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Members of a BRAC Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents club singing in Jinja, Uganda, 2010. Photo: Jake Lyall

“What I most regretted were my silences.” – Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

In honor of International Women’s Day, we use the words of Audre Lorde, a self-described black lesbian poet, who spent the better part of her life advocating for female empowerment and equality. Through solidarity and individual self-awareness, Lorde recognized the innate power of women in overcoming oppression. Her words are the embodiment of empowerment, not only for women but marginalized groups from all walks of life. She firmly believed that “it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.”

Silent is not what we will be today. International Women’s Day is a reminder of the opportunity that people like Lorde and others like her have invested with sweat, tears, and courage to provide. We have the ability to speak out against the rampant inequality and atrocities committed toward women throughout the world.

When speaking out against inequality, we also celebrate the great strides we’ve achieved. In line with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum“, we must continue a dialogue about what works to ensure we never lose momentum in fighting the good fight.

Since BRAC’s inception, women and girls have been the center of its global mission toward poverty alleviation and social justice. Significant gains have been achieved in providing access to quality education for girls, reducing child and maternal mortality rates, creating safe spaces for girls’ adolescent development and financial empowerment, and ensuring the protection of basic human rights. BRAC continues to gain momentum as a learning organization—an organization that evolves, adapts, and learns from failure.

One such example of BRAC’s impact is Kalerma Prossy, a 38-year-old microfinance borrower of Matugga Town, Uganda. Prossy opened her own boutique in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, selling secondhand items from Dubai. As a longstanding member of BRAC’s microfinance program, Prossy now employs women in her shop and hosts microfinance group meetings in her home—a home she purchased from her earnings. Prossy has made a life for herself and is taking what she learned to help other women in her community.

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Kalerma Prossy, 38, a microfinance borrower, Matugga Town, Uganda
(Photo credit: BRAC)

Prossy finished just two years of secondary school and married young. In Uganda, girls are less likely to complete secondary school than their male peers in both rural and urban areas, as our newly released Uganda Youth Watch report points out. The gender gap continues through lack of employment opportunity, low societal expectations, and limited financial independence. Even with the opportunity of employment, women are still left vulnerable to sexual harassment in male dominated work places.

With the odds against her, Prossy joined BRAC in 2007 and is proud of what she has achieved, proving the importance of financial empowerment for women and girls.

Kalerma Prossy’s story is one of many throughout the 11 countries where BRAC operates. These stories and the accompanying data are proof we’ve made progress toward economic equality for women and girls and that investing in girls pays off. But we are still far from our goals.

This International Women’s Day, we are reminded by Audre Lorde that we must continue to transform “silence into language and action.”