Why all girls need role models

Girl Effect brands use inspirational real-life and fictional characters to expand girls’ horizons.


Almost all of us can name someone who has positively influenced our life, and it is human nature to look to our peers for inspiration and guidance. That’s why role models are a key part of Girl Effect’s culture brands.

In the words of the late American poet Lucille Clifton, “We cannot create what we can't imagine”. But it is possible to envisage a whole new world if we are shown it. For this reason, Girl Effect’s social change brands include inspiring female and male role models from multiple walks of life. On the radio, the experiences of fictional drama characters mirror and inform girls’ own lives. In our editorial content, we use real life role models to inspire our audiences.

For instance, the drama characters of Yegna and Zathu are all role models, each opening up girls’ expectations of what may be possible, and broadening their horizons. So too are the female and male hosts who present the Yegna, Zathu and Ni Nyampinga talk shows, as well as Agony Aunts that feature weekly and answer burning questions from our audience. Typically, their queries focus on friendship, sexual reproductive health, safety, taking care of their bodies and exploring their own personal potential and value.

By showing girls a picture of Rwanda’s first female mechanic, girls can begin to envisage a life that could well be within their reach.

Research shows that girls, especially young adolescents, want someone to look up to, perhaps someone slightly older who has followed a certain life path,” explains Ruth Hoyal, Girl Effect’s Senior Manager, Brand Strategy. “Many girls have told us that they would much rather look to real-life role models than celebrities who are too far removed from their lives to be aspirational. By showing girls a picture of Rwanda’s first female mechanic, girls can begin to envisage a life that could well be within their reach.”

Smiling proudly on the front cover of Ni Nyampinga’s magazine in her work overalls, Olive is the perfect embodiment of a real-life role model. By carrying out a job traditionally viewed as ‘man’s work’, she deviates from established social norms and boldly leads the way for a whole new generation of girls, who can in turn become future role models.  

Ni Nyampinga’s inspirational tales extend well beyond the workplace: Pascaline found her motivation from a teenager running in a youth election, while Nadine enjoyed reading about a female volleyball player so much that she began playing handball for her own school. Meanwhile, young mother Providence’s life was transformed when she read of another girl who returned to school soon after having a baby. “Her bravery encouraged me- to completely change my life,” she says, beaming from ear to ear. “I had to follow in her footsteps.”

Learn more about Girl Effect's youth brands