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UNFPA South Africa For the Empowerment of Young Girls!

Celebrating 12th year's anniversary, Cell C, a South African leading mobile provider, invites government, private sectors, and agencies to participate in the largest South African corporate social investment event: Take a Girl Child to Work Day. This initiative is held every year on 29 May and this year the South Africa UNFPA country office together with the UNFPA KwaZulu-Natal office, was one of the 2 300 companies taking part in the event, hosting respectively 10 and 20 girls from different high schools.

This year's theme: Dream, Believe, Achieve sought to inspire young girls to achieve their greatest dream and make it real, being able to inspire, influence and lead.

However, young women encounter many challenges when entering the ‘world of work'. Despite the advancement in the legislation, a large amount of South Africa women still suffer from gender inequalities as a variety of jobs is still structurally confined to male position. Women lack skills which prevent them to obtain economic empowerment, leading to an under-representation in the formal economy. In addition to this challenge, according to Stats SA (2011) within 15-24 year age group unemployment rates were found to be at 45.4% among young males and 55% among females. Furthermore HIV incidence rates among female youth aged 15-24 years are 4 times higher than for males in this age group respectively 2.5% and 0.6%.

Through this initiative UNFPA was able to expose girl learners to positive roles and address their aspiration by pursuing their goals and ambitions making them aware of their role in the socio-economic development by providing a platform for discussion.

Ten young girls aged 15-18 from the Bokgoni Technical High School, Pretoria were hosted by the UNFPA Country Office. Starting off the day with inspirational words from UNFPA Representative Dr. Esther Muia, the girls showed clear ideas on their future goals as empowered young ladies guided by values such as dignity, integrity, and self-respect. During the day, young girls had the chance to know more about UNFPA role and work in South Africa, showing great interest.

Colleagues were able to share their stories about their life choices, challenges encountered along the way, underlining the strengths and the perseverance in reaching their highest goals. "I was the first in the family to be able to leave South Africa and go to Germany to study, it was very hard but I managed", said one colleague, "I was pregnant when I was 22, but with the support of my family I was able to finish my studies and graduate", said another colleague. Girls appreciated every second of the storytelling, being able to learn from experiences and understand the great effort behind each small life-decision. The young girls were excited to talk about their future and were eager to share these stories and information with their families and peers.

The same day, at the same time, the initiative was replicated in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the UNFPA focus provinces. UNFPA partnered with the Provincial Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Department of Health (DOH) and celebrated the event hosting 20 young high school girls. The event took place in the Umkhanyakude district, known for being one of the most deprived districts in the country, with high rates of poverty, unemployment and poor access to water and sanitation. During the day, the young learners were exposed to a variety of careers options (such as social workers, admin, HIV/AIDS officer) and reminded about their crucial role within society. One of the girls participating in the event shared the story about a pregnant friend who was not able to come to the function because she went into labor that same day. "Usually when girls have their children, they do not return to school", said the girl. "But now, I will go back and encourage her to come back to school and finish their studies", she concluded.

Both events had a great success, with young girls leaving the room as empowered young women a step closer to fulfill their potentials and aspirations!