Women Political Leaders (WPL), a global network of female politicians, teamed up with Western Union, a leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, to encourage more girls to get involved in politics, with the goal of increasing female representation in political and governmental roles and driving greater diversity of thinking in policy making and governance.
Lungelwa Goje was one of 20 women selected by G(irls)20 — an organization that places girls and women at the center of the G20 economic decision-making process — to be sponsored by Western Union to attend the Women Political Leaders Summit, the foremost gathering of female political leaders in the world, which took place earlier this month in Lithuania.
By Lungelwa Goje
I knew even from the time I was small that there was more to life than the life I was living – which meant not having privacy, not having my own bed, not being able to afford basic things. I also wanted better things for my community. I grew up in a small township outside of Cape Town, South Africa and there was a lot of violence and a high rate of teenagers using alcohol and drugs. This is because the education system wasn’t very good and they couldn’t see a positive future.
The biggest problem is that our schools are not equipped enough, understaffed and overcrowded. The Department of Education will let you pass out of high school if you score above 30 percent on your math grade, but the universities require that you have achieved at least 60 percent. So, there is a real gap between what is being taught and what is required, but people often don’t know this until it is too late. The result is that many girls with a general education just end up in retail or as shopkeepers. Some become too dependent on men, which has exacerbated domestic violence.
When I think of all the things I didn’t know until it was too late, it makes me so angry, so my real goal is to take the veil off the eyes of some young girls in my community and make them aware of the possibilities in their future and what will be required of them — particularly in the areas of science, mathematics and technology.
After the G(irls) 20 Summit, I was able to get funding from the Vice chancellor of the University of the Western Cape and Khonology to start my organization. We teach Mathematics, English, Life Skills, Financial Literacy and Career awareness to teenage girls from Kayamandi. I bring women in who are professionals and students they have them talk about what it took to get where they are. Some of these girls from the township don’t even know what an astronaut is. Or what an engineer is. So, it is very exciting for them. We have much more demand than we can fulfill.
I went to Lithuania with big goals to win government support to expand my program and connect more girls to a prosperous future. When I first arrived, I was very intimidated. On the first day, we had a networking meeting and I met a Dieudonne Luma Etienne Senator, President of the Committee for Gender in Haiti and Naye Anna Bahily who is Head, Global Parliamentary Engagement Unit at the World Bank.
I also met AbebaTesfai Director, Women Financial Services Department in Ethiopia. Since I am an accounting student, we talked a lot about finance and how my degree could be relevant in politics. Then she shared with me the challenges she faced in her career as someone who fights for women to have access to finance for their businesses. All these women were so welcoming and willing to share that they put me at ease. After that, there were fantastic conversations. My favorite was led by Fauziya Abdi Ali the Founder and President of WIIS Kenya. I learned that one does not need to be in politics to bring about positive change and the fight of women empowerment is a fight that women should fight irrespective of their fields of work.
I left the conference feeling very optimistic about the future, especially since I connected with other women who do things similarly to myself. That is, helping young women visit government organizations and learn how they might get involved. Working together, we may even bring this program to my country.