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Romina Scianatico, our recent Girl Impact Volunteer in Livingstone shares her thoughts with us.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded volunteer experience, have many interests, and are having a difficult time choosing a program to participate in, African Impact’s Livingstone Community Project is definitely one to check out. Located close to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, the work done here is it’s own little wonder. You can choose a program within your interest and they also give you the freedom of a variety of projects to participate in – sports, teaching, eco-bricking, social activities, and tons more!

As a student studying Nursing and Gender Studies, I chose Girl Impact (GI). My first week was packed with so many different activities it’s hard not to want to describe them all. Each was amazing in their own way. In this program you help teach lessons on health, bullying, drugs and alcohol, gender based violence, and teamwork to fifth and sixth grade girls at Linda Community School as well as rugby. There is also a farm which the grade school girls help tend to with the volunteers that ends up helping feed them. For the women in the community, you put together workshops so they can set goals, budget, and save money for their families.

One of the lessons I put together was a introductory yoga lesson for the Women’s Group while we were covering healthy eating and fitness. I had never taught a class on anything nor am I the most advanced at yoga, but the warm support I received from GI’s coordinator eased my worries.

The women in the group had never heard of the practice before so I wasn’t sure how well they would take to it. But, I was happily surprised to find that they really enjoyed it! I told them some brief history on the Indian origin of yoga and then guided them through breathing meditation before moving onto poses. One of the women, with a baby on her hip, was smiling so brightly the moment we started and things only got better from that point. There was laughing during some of the harder poses and directing each other in the postures. After we wrapped up with corpse pose and we were all laying in the sun, I couldn’t believe I had been hesitant and nervous for that morning. I was very pleased that many of them said their bodies felt loose and that their joint pain had lessened – something I didn’t expect to happen during their first go at yoga!

What I took away most from that day was that even though I barely knew these women, there was a strong sense of sisterhood. They were enthusiastic and keen to learn. I’m not sure if they know it, but those lovely ladies left a huge impact on my life – probably more so than I did on theirs. Despite the language and culture barriers, a connection was still made and I’m immensely grateful for that. It’s something I will carry with me on the flight journey home and further. So, for all of the precious moments I know have in my memories, I’d like to thank Zambia, African Impact and it’s coordinators, all the females I had the privilege to come into contact with at Linda, and my fellow volunteers.

Coming to volunteer at the Livingstone Community Projects was the best decision I ever made and I hope I’ll get to do it again soon!

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Written by Kaylee Prince, African Impact Cape Town Projects Business Manager

The strongest actions for a woman is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could. – unknown

Who was it in your world that told you that you could be anything, that you could reach for the stars and you were great enough to be able to catch them?

For me, it was my dad. When saying I wanted to be the ‘ball boy’ at the Wimbledon tennis match, he would say, “you can be the champion player”. When saying I wasn’t smart enough, he would say, “you can do anything you set your mind to”. And I have, because he gave me that confidence, that belief in myself.

I now find myself living in Cape Town and working in the community of Khayelitsha. I am seeing girls and women around me without strong role models, strong leaders, strong sense of self. Who is telling these girls that they are great? Hopefully it can be me.

I am fortunate enough to work on The Girl Impact, a project as rewarding as it is difficult. With statistics released showing 1 in 5 women are assaulted by their partner, women and girls in South Africa are facing uphill battles that I cannot even comprehend and yet I still believe they can reach for the stars. We just need to convince them that this is the case. Why shout it from the rooftops though, when a picture can speak the thousand words I know these women (and men) need to hear…

One of our Girl Impact partners, Sonwabile AfterCare, is working with ‘tweens’ to ensure they have the greatest head start on life. The children, who average about 8 years old, spend the afternoons with African Impact volunteers learning, through fun games and activities, the skills they need to succeed in life. One of these skills is Self Confidence; belief that those stars and dreams are achievable, that they too can be the champion player. After working with the children on identifying positive role models, how to speak up and feel confident in themselves, we teemed with Penda Trust and incredible photographer Sarah Isaacs to SHOW the children how strong they are.

The confidence portraits that have been produced cement for me that the future of South Africa lays in the hands of the women of this nation. The girls we work with are strong, they are confident, they can reach for the stars. And now they can SEE it. They can see they have the power to say no, that they have a strength inside of them and that they can achieve what it is they set their minds to. It’s time we all helped to build their future, to lay foundations to hold them up. A woman will reinvest 80-90% of her wage into her family, she will care for them, teach them and help them grow. That is an opportunity to re-establish a nation in trouble.

If we can empower a girl to become a strong woman we can empower an entire community.

… and I think that would make my dad proud too.

 

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Claudy Luft, volunteered in the Girl Impact and Gender Empowerment Project 

12 weeks in Livingstone, Zambia and 12 weeks in Moshi, Tanzania.

Much more can and needs to be done to reach the goal of gender equality in the hole world. I believe every little bit helps and it starts with education, that is why I came to Zambia in 2016 and to Tanzania in 2017.

4 weeks ago, I arrived in Moshi. I was so excited and could not wait to start. From the moment I arrived, I felt part of the Moshi African Impact family, everyone is so welcoming and the projects are well organized. After being a volunteer in different projects, in different locations, I knew how interesting and impactful the Girl Impact program is. The girls (and boys every now and then) that are part of the Girl Impact program improved their knowledge but more important they grow in confidence. When we invest in girls’ health, safety, education and rights we empower them to reach for their dreams and build better lives for themselves and their communities.

There are many similarities in the Girl Impact projects, of course both projects cover all the ‘girls’ topics and both projects are well established and well organized. Even when you volunteer for 2 or 4 weeks you can see the bigger impact the program makes in the community and you are an important part of it. An interesting difference between the locations is the culture. Girls all over the world struggle with the same problems but cultural influences make that girls in different part of the world are more vulnerable than others. A project in Moshi that made a big impact in one of my first weeks was NAFGEM, a project that helps girls who escaped female genital mutilation, which is still common in Maasai and Tanzanian culture. Young women, especially those from such strict cultural backgrounds need and want mentors to help them navigate and bring them more confidents to become strong, independent women. Here in Moshi we work closely with the Maasai; we run a Maasai literacy program and a Maasai professional development program. Girl Impact volunteers in Moshi get the change to join the education project in which we teach the Maasai, adults and kids English. This gives you the opportunity to see more of the impact we make in the community. While volunteering you really get to know the culture and that is one of the biggest benefits volunteering gives you compare to traveling.

Both projects are focussed on different age groups of girls, from young girls up to adults. And all girls that I’ve met in the program are so eager to learn and come to our lessons after school which shows their dedication. This program is an incredible experience for yourself and for the girls that you’ll support by joining the Girl Impact program. African Impact facilitates it so well with tasty food, good accommodation, project transfers and a helpful team to support you before, during and after the projects. You’ll never be on your own!

But be aware while you’re busy helping to change their lives, they’ll change yours and in ways you could never have imagined.

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Let me introduce myself. My name is Benjamin, an engineering student, and I’m here in Livingstone, Zambia as a “build it” volunteer. However, I’m actually going to tell you why you should join The Girl Impact program.

First, The Girl Impact is the highlight of my week. On Thursdays we take part in a girls rugby program, in which the girls learn valuable skills in teamwork, co-operation, sportsmanship and even self-defense! The first time I went down to the pitch, I was overwhelmed with their energy, but I came away feeling inspired and excited, clearing away those mid week blues, wanting to go back again and again.

Second, to illustrate the importance and value of volunteering on The Girl Impact program, allow me to relay a story which best describes my story. ‘A man was walking down a beach and as far as he could see were starfish that had been washed up into the sand being cooked by the sun. But walking towards him was a young boy who every so often would bend down, pick up one of these star fish, and throw it back into ocean. When they got close enough the man asked the boy “What are you doing you can’t possibly help all these starfish.” The boy simply bends down, picks up another, and throws it as far as he can. He replies, “but I made a difference to this one.”’

We can not help every girl; however, the girls we do impact, leave The Girl Impact workshops feeling empowered and most importantly safe in the knowledge that somebody cares. From this there can only be a multiplier effect.

To be a part of this multiplier effect, check out the volunteer and intern tab above!

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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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