Head of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation (OWLAF) Becky Sykes, provides insight into how young women can be empowered to become future leaders.
What are the challenges of educating girls specifically?
Many young South Africans lack access to quality education and are not being trained in skill areas that are highly required in the job market. Even after spending 12 or 15 years studying some young women and men are not employable. Young women need strong role models but even more so, they need active mentors who have faith in them and encourage them through the challenges they will inevitably face in life.
How can the youth have a positive impact in communities?
Youth bring their hope, enthusiasm and energy to their communities and can envision change in ways that we older people often have lost the passion to do. Young women from a traditionally male-dominated society are generally more comfortable to be nurturing and more open to helping people through their problems by providing positive change.
What change does OWLAG hope to bring to every student?
Because our girls come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, many arrive having experienced multiple traumas. This year we have launched an educational approach that recognizes the particular needs of young people who are trauma survivors. This approach involves positive, nurturing, developmentally sensitive interactions and a belief in Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset,” or the view that our ability to learn is not fixed but always changing and growing with the exposure to new knowledge.
What can be done to change the state of education, especially in rural communities?
The first thing that needs to be done is to get leaders in these communities to believe that their children’s education and to invest resources in well-trained teachers and adequate facilities with proper sanitation. Whether children are in rural, urban or suburban communities, they need the same respect and support. Adults need to assure that they can learn in safe, clean, well-outfitted classrooms, that the teachers are present both physically and emotionally, and that the parents give children time to do their primary job as learners.