You are here

Empowering girls and wider cultural expectations


Empowering girls and wider cultural expectations

Girls empowerment is more than a desired outcome, indicator and impact, for girls involved in The Go Sisters programme with EduSport in Zambia, girls also manage responsibilities to their families and the wider cultural expectations in order to feel empowered.

In a series of in-depth interviews, girls reveal their experiences of empowerment and the challenges that still exist in communities.


Go Sisters have different interpretations of the word 'empowerment,' and aside from gaining leadership skills and added responsibility, some girls believe empowerment is a personal gain of  “having good knowledge and applying the knowledge to the best of your ability.”

Empowering others 
Many girls believe that empowerment relates to helping others, explaining, “Empowerment is really like helping someone to do something on their own. Today you help them do something like you tell them 'this is what I want you to do.' The next time they start doing it on their own." Meanwhile, other girls believe that empowerment relates specifically to the Go Sisters programme, “I just want them to be involved in activities so that two, three years time they should also coordinate, coach in Go Sisters programmes.”

Community Impact

Young leaders in the programme understand that communities are an important area of impact and did refer to the opposition girls faced from parents and their reluctance to see their daughters take part. To overcome this, girls carry their responsibilities as role models from the field to the community, by maintaining good values and behaviour, like trying to engage other girls in debates to impart knowledge about HIV/AIDS.

Collective identity
Girls identify the Go Sisters programme as an activity for young people to maintain roles of responsibility which gave not just girls, but youth a voice. Speaking on the role of youth in the community, one girl said, “I have never seen anything like calling upon the youths to make decisions… it is adult driven, and then the youths are completely eliminated from decision making.”

Traditional roles and contributing to families

Women in the community are still expected to adopt a traditional home role and therefore some parents show resistance to girls taking part in the programme. One girl comments, “If your parents grew up with a strong culture and they still remain with that, it means when an opinion is good or they will just say ’shut up’ culture say ‘you only give your opinion, not when you want, but when they want… you are supposed to spend your whole time in the kitchen.’”

Many of the Go Sisters' days used to be structured around household duties before joining the programme, one Go Sister said:

“Yes it [empowerment] can create tension if you are not doing the right thing that at home they expect you to do… if you are not balancing everything, maybe household chores, you don’t work, when you move from the house from morning until evening nothing you do at home apart from the ground. Your parents will start asking ‘What is going on?’”

Despite this, Go Sisters overcome these challenges and continue to inspire girls in the communities to adopt leadership roles and skills to help develop themselves and others around them. The Go Sisters programme is funded by DFID, UK Sport and Commonwealth Games Canada through International Development through Sport (IDS) to EduSport.

Visit the EduSport website to find out more about the Go Sisters programme


Article type



Mel Paramasivan


Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 23:00