Unpacking “Feminism”

Feminism is often a loaded term. It’s important that we unpack the meaning of the word “Feminism” and work to clarify what a feminist truly is: 

 “A person who believes in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes”

As defined by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TedXEuston talk “We Should All Be Feminists.” https://youtu.be/hg3umXU_qWc

Feminism and feminists around the world work to challenge the systemic inequalities women face on a daily basis. Some of the most prevalent inequalities that persist are gender-based violence, economic inequality, and lack of access to education, among many others.

Gender-based Violence

Women are disproportionately affected by sexual and domestic violence. Around 35% of women around the world have experienced some sort of physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. This number is a low estimate, with some national studies showing that number as high as 70% (unwomen.org)

Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends

Economic Inequality

Around the world, in almost every profession or professional capacity, women earn less than their male counterparts. Worldwide, women on average earn a little more than 50% of what men earn. (source: UN Women)

The Feminization of Poverty

The feminization of poverty deals with the fact that women represent a disproportionately large amount of the world’s population that live under the poverty line, especially in developing countries.


The gap between women and men in poverty has widened in the past decade. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women states:

Women living in poverty are often denied critical resources such as credit, land and inheritance, their health care and nutritional needs are not given priority, they lack sufficient access to education and support services, and their participation in decision-making at home and in the community are minimal. Caught in the cycle of poverty, women lack access to resources and services to change their situation.

Access to Education

An estimated 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age (half of them in sub-Saharan Africa) will never attend school. These staggering figures are due to a number of reasons, including poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, and child marriage. (Source: http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/girlseducation )
However, evidence has shown that the education of women has nothing but positive benefits to the individual, community, country, and world. 

  • Educated mothers mean healthy children. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age 5 
  • Each extra year of a mother’s schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5% – 10%. 
  • Education enhances job opportunities for women & men 
  • An educated female population increases a country’s productivity and fuels economic growth. Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys.

Source: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/international-womens-day-2014/women-ed-facts-and-figure/

At Uganda for Her Initiative, we work to combat the systemic inequalities that women face, while directly addressing the issue of access to education. Our main goal is enabling girls to remain in school by helping them control their menstruation and avoid missing classes. When a girl completes her education, she has a much higher chance of gaining employment and financial stability, and empowering herself and her community.

Written by Emily Balfour, Intern.