By Natasha Kwakwa, Director, Goal programme, Standard Chartered
Today, on International Women’s Day, people across the world will be showing their support for equal pay and workplace participation for men and women.
If the current pace of change continues, the World Economic Forum has predicted that we may not reach full gender equality till 170 years from now.
At Standard Chartered, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day through Goal, our programme helping girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to transform their life prospects.
The girls are determined to protect their rights
Some of our staff from our international graduate programme were in Nairobi volunteering this week, talking to 350 primary school girls about how to realise their ambitions.
From their views on a range of topics – such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation to career options for women – it was clear that the girls are determined to protect their rights.
While their career ambitions varied – with many wanting to be journalists, doctors, lawyers or teachers – the one thing that the girls had in common was a love of dance. We finished our session with a huge dance-off, which we lost by some margin. The girls wouldn’t let their victory end without a selfie, and Alex Kennedy from our Development Impact team was happy to oblige.
To date, Goal – which uses sport to help empower young women with the skills and confidence they need to be leaders in their communities – has reached more than 285,000 girls across more than 20 markets.
Research has shown that one of the most impactful means of empowering women and ensuring economic equality is education. Witnessing how Goal raises the aspirations of girls – including the primary school pupils in Kenya – makes us even determined to reach even more, which is why our ambition is to reach 600,000 girls by 2020.
Real, lasting change is what matters
At Standard Chartered, we support gender diversity and equality, in the workplace and beyond. Almost half of our staff are women, and we’ve publically committed to increasing women’s representation on our Board to one-third.
But if we’re going to see real, lasting change across the markets where we operate, it all starts with girls – protecting them from violence, giving them access to education and equal opportunity, and ensuring their right to decide their own path.
For me, that’s what International Women’s Day is all about and why I support #BeBoldForChange.