05/30/2017 01:38 EDT | Updated 05/30/2017 01:38 EDT

Why We Must Educate South African Girls

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South African girl (from the Xhosa tribe) works on her studies at an old worn desk in a class room in the Transkei region of rural South Africa.

South Africa has a very patriarchal society with a violent history. Owing to the injustices of the past, many middle-aged women are not well educated, earn less than men and are unable to secure decent employment or develop sustainable businesses. The nature of our patriarchal culture has hindered female education. Over the years and due to their resilient nature, women across all races, cultures and backgrounds have rebelled against this domination. They have found their voice.

Many organizations, both local and international have pledged support to eradicating previous injustices. The United Nations (UN) and the South African government are just two examples of those committed to making South Africa a better place for today and for generations to come. This should be a legacy that we all work towards.

The African Union (AU) declared 2015 as the Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063. Such initiatives create hope especially in the face of poverty, despair and victimization.

While all the great work and sacrifices of many, must be applauded and acknowledged, we must also acknowledge that our work is far from done.

There are a number of reasons that make obtaining education and overcoming gender-based violence difficult for South African girls. Many girls miss a significant number of school days due to the lack of sanitary wear. In some communities, young girls are forced into marriages with older men for money, exposing them to sexual violence and other forms of gender based violence. In some cases, schools are located far away from home, exposing girls to danger and violence on their journey to and from school.

According to Girls Education Movement South Africa (GEMSA) article, girls are socialized to be home keepers and child-bearers. When girls perform well in subjects such as Maths or Science, they are not encouraged to pursue careers in these fields.

I believe that we need more inclusive styles of leadership education where girls are encouraged to take on leadership roles in schools. Girls must conquer their fears while they are young, rather than being restricted by them when they grow up. Together we need to make South African schools an open community of teachers, parents, police, psychologists and nurses, where young girls feel comfortable to talk about issues that plague them. It is our duty to create a "safe" zone for them.

I would love to live in a South Africa where girls go to school and are safe, where girls are not threatened by rape, where improved infrastructure is not an anomaly. As a young girl, I had to use toilet paper as sanitary wear, on more than one occasion. The experience was both sobering and humbling.

I have a vision of what the future South Africa will look like. This vision is quite ambitious, but I believe that no success story ever came to pass without hard work, endurance and faith. I envision that my beloved land will embrace a woman's power, that through her strengths she will help build a dominant yet humane nation. That she is not a threat nor a foe. That every woman from adolescence to adulthood, will be respected, honoured and be the pride of her home, community and country. I would love to live in a South Africa where girls are accepted as equals to boys, and where boys realize that girls are equally capable of being leaders, and can make their own decisions in life.

This is my vision.

By Lungelwa Goje, G(irls)20 Delegate, South Africa

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