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Empowering Africa’s Girls

The stats and stories about the lives of many adolescent girls in Africa, and around the world, is heart-wrenching: 50% of girls do not complete primary school across Africa; more than 33% of girls in South Africa have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18; and the many adolescent girls become mothers while they are almost still a child themselves.  It has been shown in other countries that women are a vital part of the solution to ensure improvements and growth. African women and girls offer so much untapped potential to drive the development of Africa.

African Impact wants to make life better for girls and young women. Better opportunities for education, safety, building self-confidence, and having better knowledge on how to prevent early pregnancy.  These, along with other areas of focus, can create empowered young women and lead to families and communities moving out of poverty.

There are some great organisations around the world improving the lives of girls and it’s becoming a big focus for our generation. African Impact and The Happy Africa Foundation are shaping a new initiative focussing on how volunteers and funding can create better opportunities for girls as they become young women.  The focus is not just on girls as it’s important that the boys and men in the communities see how women are an essential part of progress in Africa.

So in the months to come, we would like to invite volunteers to join us in helping girls have a better future.  Through activities like education workshops, maternal health discussions, sport sessions, self-defence lessons, support groups, or learning from community mentors, volunteers will play an important a part of this.  It’s in early days but we are already starting a program with the Network Against Female Genital Mutilation in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and working on puberty workshops in Livingstone and Cape Town with many more valuable partnerships and activities to come.

We will be looking for funding to help us keep girls in school, support community mentors, get great local people involved in the program, and provide the resources to educate and coach girls.

Keep in touch so we can keep you posted about the progress of this program and how you can play a part!

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Volunteers in Kilimanjaro: Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of our article discussing our Girl Impact project in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and the arrival of our first volunteer, check it out here!

With the departure of Marina, our first Girl Impact volunteer, we welcomed the arrival of Girl Impact volunteer number two Alison. This also marked the return to a wonderful project NAFGEM, a haven for inspiring girls who escaped female genital mutilation.

During this programme we delivered workshops in gender inequality, contraception, dowry and sexual health. This two week programme was amazing with staff and volunteers leaving inspired and amazed by these wonderful girls and their positivity and outlook on life. Throughout the programme we were continually surprised and impressed by the views of these girls and how open and courageous they were while discussing topics that many would find challenging and embarrassing.

On our final day we had a graduation where everyone shared things they learnt during the programme.  The feedback and positivity was moving:

group photo gender empowerment tanzania

‘Women are strong, women are intelligent’, – GI student

“I am so inspired by all of the beautiful girls of NAFGEM and will remember you always” – Kate African Impact Academy Volunteer

‘Girls are able’- GI student

‘I learned that when girls come together and support each other, amazing things can happen’- Alison GI volunteer

‘All people are equal under the sun’ GI student

 ‘This programme inspired me to remember this famous quote by former Irish president Mary Robinson: “Women, who instead of rocking the cradle rocked the system”’ – Gill Programme Manager

 

staff gender empowerment volunteer groupOur project continues presently with an after school Girls Club in our local secondary school. This project has gotten off to an energetic start with numbers jumping from 38 girls to 46 girls in just one day. With this club we will be covering workshops based on the topic of physical & mental health, adolescence, sexual health and decision making.

The response for our programme so far has been amazing with the students really taking over and getting involved in discussion. Our programme doesn’t end in the classroom, our volunteers are also enjoyed female empowerment movies and discussion evenings, and Alison our volunteer is currently running a girl impact social media campaign tackling different gender stereotypes using our craft day in kindergarten class as a means to portray these and the outreach has been amazing so far.

girls club gender empowerment tanzaniaGreat progress has been made to date worldwide but we are still a long way off reaching equality. We all need to work together to bridge the gap, because there have never been more ways to fight for women’s equality, and with our Girl Impact programme we are working together to achieve that goal by educating and empowering our community; male and females alike on the barriers faced by women in today’s society and ways of overcoming these barriers.

One of our students at NAFGEM has summed up perfectly everything we are trying to achieve with this programme. ‘All people can do everything; all people are equal in this world about all things. Let us fight for our right because we are strong and we can do everything in this world.’

‘Girls are able.’

 

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Volunteers in Kilimanjaro: Part 1

PART 1. (Keep an eye out next week for our second instalment!) 

global goal number 5

This year the world is marking 2016 as the year for Global Girls. It is the year that Goal 5 of the Global Goals is taking centre stage.  Goal number 5 of the sustainable development goals is: “To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This goal represents tackling areas of education, power, violence and discrimination where there is inequality between men & women.

In 2000, 62 million girls were without primary education, that figure dropped to 31 million in 2015. By 2030 our nation is aiming to have all girls’ complete primary and secondary education.  According to UNESCO in 2013 in Tanzania, 81% of females were enrolled in primary education, but only 31% of females were enrolled in secondary education.

Goal 5 also aims to end all forms of discrimination and violence against all girls and women. In Tanzania according to the report by UNICEF in 2016 the prevalence of FGM (female genital mutilation) between girls between the ages of 15-49 is 15%. The percentage of girls married before they turn 18 in Tanzania is 37%.

At present females represent 22% of global seats in government. By 2030 the aim is to have female & male representation in government at equal. According to recent data 30% of the seats in Tanzanian government are occupied by women.

These are ambitious goals but we are living in a society where there have never been more powerful women, therehas never been a greater opportunity to fight for women and for equality. This generation is the generation of Global Girls.

This year African Impact Kilimanjaro is celebrating the year of Global Girls with the launch of our Girl Impact program.  This programme aims to empower and educate girls and boys in our community on health issues, equality, challenges faced by women today in Tanzania and worldwide, and most importantly how to overcome those challenges, and speak up for your rights.

In Kilimanjaro this programme is taking on many different forms, it is still in its early stages but we have already celebrated many accomplishments.  We welcomed the arrival of our first volunteer Marina from Italy in March, she was with us for two weeks and during her time here she helped deliver workshops to college students on menstrual health, sexual health & HIV and the implications of these for girls in Tanzania. She also worked in a kindergarten class and our ‘Community Class’ where the structure has changed with the introduction of Girl Impact Thursdays where staff and volunteers facilitate discussions on topics such as gender norms, role of the dowry & HIV. These mornings have been amazing with great participation and debate sparked among volunteers and students. Marina left us at the end of March but posted some beautiful words on Facebook telling her followers what she learnt while volunteering on our Girl Impact programme.

 ‘I learned how to give, I learned how to listen and give answers to sensitive topics, I understood that a hug can make my day and driving the little hand of a child on a outlined letter can be so funny and enriching. I observed a different culture and discussed about relationships and the role of woman in a tribal society’.

marina gender empowerment project tanzania

 

With the departure of Marina we welcomed the arrival of Girl Impact volunteer number two Alison. This also marked the return to a wonderful project NAFGEM, a haven for inspiring girls who escaped female genital mutilation… Read more about this next week!

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Alison Vorsatz is from the USA and was the first volunteer on our new Girl Impact and Gender Empowerment Project in Zambia! She arrived full of energy and great ideas and really launched the project in style. Below is a short story Alison wrote regarding an activity she led with her group which should hopefully give some of our other Girl Impact volunteers some great ideas!

alison working with girl group

“Our 10-12 year old girls here in Livingstone are in the 4th grade, but are reading and writing at a level closer to kindergarten. They attend our weekly Girl Impact program focused on girl empowerment, but we need to continually find ways to promote girl empowerment in their regular education as well.

In reading club the other day I created tracing and writing worksheets for them to practice twenty words that define empowered girls. It is essential that the girls are able to read, write and understand these attributes, so that they can strive to embody them, and also learn to celebrate and respect them in other girls.

My 4th graders loved the exercise, and after learning the meanings, they couldn’t wait to show me what their favorite empowered girl qualities were.

The younger girls saw what was happening and started coming over to watch the older girls write, and they also wanted to learn the words and practice writing them. Next the boys were asking what we were writing, and when I explained, they said they wanted to learn to write words about girls, too. Then all of them were doing the exercise, and we had girls and boys learning together about positive, empowering words to describe girls.

At the end of the session I asked my 4th grade girls to choose in a few words what type of empowered girl they wanted to be. They decided on ambitious, brave, respected and kind.

That sounds like an amazing example of an empowered girl to me…”

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I stepped into the Linda Community School and was greeted with girls smiling ear to ear, then they quickly transitioned  to run and get any desk and chair they can find to start our Girl Impact circle outside the school classrooms. They eagerly set their bags down and waited until the teachers were ready. All twenty-two Grade Four girls stood and collectively greeted us, “Good morning madams, how are you doing?” The lesson began and the atmosphere was automatically filled with energy. I heard girls using the words empowerment, strong, brave, kind, courageous and powerful. Our “empower girls” bear was passed around to share what we love about ourselves. At first, girls had a hard time standing up in front of everyone, projecting their voices. Once The Girl Impact volunteers stopped and reminded the girls to show self-confidence by standing tall, projecting your voice, and being proud of your response, the girls’ confidence level became truly indescribable. The girl’s enthusiasm for the lesson revealed their genuine care for learning.

As the week carried on, I attended Grade Six Girl Impact Workshops, participated in sustainable farming, and watched the girls attend Reading, Math and Sports club. Throughout this week I began to find a pattern. The girls who regularly attended The Girl Impact workshops also attended all the extracurriculars African Impact has to offer. Not only were girls being educated in the six pillars during The Girl Impact workshops, they were also practising and applying these skills on their own.

Watching these girls growing in just a week made me only more excited for my new position with The Happy Africa Foundation. As an intern for The Happy Africa Foundation, I have the privilege to be working with The Girl Impact both internally and externally. How amazing that I get to put forth my passion of education to support one of the pillars for The Girl Impact! I have been given the opportunity to strengthen the pillar of education through assisting the process of coordinating new curriculum. Furthermore, we will be able to monitor evaluations to create a sustainable program for future generations of girls. We will also continue to encourage girls in The Girl Impact to remain in Math and Reading Club and to participate in sports to practice a number of the six pillars.

Even after being here for two weeks, I am so hopeful these girls are learning and applying their new learned skills from The Girl Impact program on a daily basis. I already see such great potential for these girls to become strong leaders in their communities. The Girl Impact is truly changing the future for all girls in Africa and I am so privileged to be a part of this impact.

 

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