Poverty rates are high in rural Zambia, impacting 78% of the population. Women and adolescent girls bear the brunt of these high rates (The World Bank, Empowering Rural Women in Zambia to Move out of Poverty).
A girl’s right to education is undermined by early and forced marriage; discrimination, and violence both in school and at home; an increased vulnerability to HIV and the risk of early pregnancy.
Why is it important to educate girls?
The opportunity for a healthier, happier and more prosperous future should be reason enough. However, an educated girl benefits society as a whole. She will acquire the skills and confidence needed to make her a better worker, parent, and citizen. An educated girl will be better informed, and she will be able to stand up for herself and her community. She will pass these lessons onto her children, she will be less likely to marry at a young age, and she will be more likely to send her children to school. When you educate a girl, you educate a community – and that is how the hope for change is sown.
Baobuyu’s ‘Girl Power’ initiative provides a safe place for adolescent girls aged 12-18 within the Mwandi community. It seeks to both empower and nurture through art, dance, and awareness-based workshops. Uplifting the girls’ individual voices is at the heart of the project. Each member is valued for who she is as a person and who she hopes to become in the future.
The group gathers on a weekly basis for an afternoon of laughter, joy, and insight into crucial topics like menstruation and self-awareness. In the past, we have held sessions on puberty, healthy living, safe relationships, and social issues affecting the Mwandi community. These workshops aim to empower the girls with the knowledge and strength to make their own decisions. Perhaps most importantly, ‘Girl Power’ is an opportunity for the girls to be themselves. It is a safe place for our girls to ask questions, share their concerns, and create lasting friendships.
Our hope is that the group will sow the seeds of change over time. Encouraging the girls to raise and take ownership of their voices is the first step. Ultimately, we hope that, as they become young women, they see in themselves what we see in them: a group of kind, strong-willed individuals who can write their own narratives.
“Girl Power is important to me because I learn a lot of things that I don’t know, and it will always stay with me. It is important for me to come because I want to make a better future.”Lena, Girl Power participant