Hellen Muyomba recently participated in the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur with support from the Beyond Access Outreach Fund. The conference gathered government leaders, policy makers, NGO representatives, and others from a range of sectors to discuss the health and empowerment of girls and women. In this blog post, Hellen shares key points from the conference and demonstrates how her organization serves the needs of girls and women.
Partnerships and community organizations are essential.
Strong partnerships, government participation, and increased advocacy for public libraries are all essential to empower women and girls. After the Women Deliver conference, I realized that many organizations were successful in their work and projects because of the many partnerships they had with other organizations. It’s through these partnerships that organizations sustain their work and maintain their high standards. The idea ties into sustainability, because organizations with strong partnerships are also more sustainable. During one presentation, Melinda Gates noted that funders often have trouble ensuring the long-term sustainability of the programs they fund, explaining that governments need to get involved to keep programs going so their nations can benefit from them. Cooperation with community organizations like libraries is also vital, because they offer safe places where girls and women can get the information they need about health, education, agriculture, economic empowerment, and more.
Community organizations empower women.
Throughout the event, I shared with other delegates what the National Library of Uganda has accomplished in its Youth Employment program as well as in its program delivering information to pregnant teenagers through ICT. The program benefits teenage mothers by giving them the opportunity to obtain information about their current situation and by empowering them economically. Through the program, they learn ICT skills that can help them become more qualified for employment after their children are born, which is essential because most of the children’s fathers deny all financial responsibility.
Libraries belong in the women’s empowerment discussion.
I was surprised to learn that although there are more than 300,000 public libraries in the world, people have very limited or even no knowledge of the great work these libraries are capable of doing. When some conference attendees learned that I worked with libraries, they were surprised because most of them were from the health sector, NGOs, hospitals and human rights organizations. I used this opportunity to share how libraries power development, an idea that many of them were shocked to encounter because they had always thought of libraries in much more limited and restrictive ways. But many of them quickly understood how libraries could fit in with their own work.
For example, during a presentation from Every Woman, Every Child, a delegate from Zimbabwe working with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) talked about safe places for girls to find information concerning their health. Libraries are clearly some of the best places for women and girls to find information, but to my surprise, nothing was mentioned about them. This made me realize that librarians still have a lot of work ahead of us to show the world how public libraries power development.