Women empowerment: “Discovering who you are, you can go everywhere”

Date 08.10.2018

The title evoked AVSI’s direct, close-up experience with so many women, each with a particular story of transformation and self-realization—the experience of becoming THE protagonist of one’s life story—even in the midst of suffering and obstacles.

Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI’s Secretary General, stressed the need for a relationship of equality and real collaboration among development actors, advocates and those whom they serve.

“Change cannot be imposed from the top. No communication campaign nor law or regulations will succeed in changing a mindset if the person doesn’t discover, through the direct personal experience …that involve her to the last fiber and makes her discover that she can do it,” affirmed Silvestri through examples taken from his many years visiting AVSI’s development programs around the world.

Teddy Bongomin, a social worker with the Ugandan NGO Meeting Point International in Kampala, sent a moving testimony by video in which she witnessed to the beautiful transformation which occurs when a woman discovers her true value, fully as a woman. This is the key for any development program or even advocacy efforts to have impact, that a woman’s heart is open, reawakened.

“I say if you exalt a woman, make her discover herself, give her tools, she will use them to save her live and even the lives of the others!” proclaimed Teddy.

Felicity Acan, a Private Sector Development Specialist for AVSI Uganda, also shared her personal experience, in her case underlying the importance of the family as the first advocate and protector for girls and their rights. Felicity went on to stress the importance of education and employment for women, acknowledging the challenges that exist today in Uganda for women to reach their fullest potential. Despite the uphill battle, Felicity stressed the need to set high expectations for our projects and initiatives and to use creativity to develop dedicated strategies to support women in the most effective way possible.

“Women can do the same work as men, but this is not a fight just for women. To empower a woman, we need the man involved” stated Felicity.

Other speakers spoke about the need to address the root causes of violence and denial of women’s human rights, while others argued convincingly for the many benefits that would come from increased empowerment of women worldwide: from increases in GDP to improved health outcomes and peace. In her conclusion, the Italian Senator and human rights activist, Emma Bonino, stressed that there is an important role for both the grassroots experience and voice of women, together with advocacy for better legal frameworks and investments to protect human rights. She evoked the creativity of women and their capacity for endurance to continue to push the boundaries and create the conditions in which all women can flourish.

At the United Nations, the world’s stage, not only did AVSI proudly give voice to all the women supported across 30+ countries over more than 40 years, but gave them the floor to tell their stories directly, in their own words.