Even as COVID-19 lays bare deeply entrenched structural inequalities in relation to gender norms, its true impact is still unknown. What we do know is that girls’ lives have forever changed because of the pandemic. Girls have experienced greater violence; they have withdrawn from school either because they do not have the ability to access learning, or because they have shouldered greater household responsibilities.

However, COVID-19 is a double-edged sword. The pandemic has also thrown open possibilities and opportunities to address structural inequalities.

The pre-COVID-19 world had many imbalances and inequalities and we are now in a moment where we have the potential to ensure that the next ‘normal’ addresses these, including who holds knowledge, who has a seat at the table, and how decisions are made.

One of the most profound ways in which we can ‘build back better’ is by recognising the wisdom and leadership potential within our own organisations and within the communities where we work. Leadership and wisdom exist in all spheres and we now have the opportunity to create a path that enables us to recognise and cultivate this and change how we operate as a sector.

This approach is two-pronged: The first and most critical is to pay attention to the voices of girls and young women so that they have a seat at the table in relation to the issues that affect them.

The second is to ensure that we are not replicating existing power structures within our own organisations. If our vision is to alter social structures to improve outcomes for the communities that we work with, then our organisations cannot replicate features such as top-down decision-making and concentrating power in the hands of a select few people in leadership positions.

Read the full article about cultivating female leadership by Nisha Dhawan at India Development Review.