The Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC) hosted a public advocacy event on Thursday afternoon, 23 August 2018, titled: SAN GIRLS! FIRST GIRLS! GROWING UP STRONG! It was the closing event of the two-and-a-half-year WLC Project: San girls prevent child marriage and early pregnancy, funded by the Embassy of Finland in Namibia.
20 San girls, five girls from each of the following villages: Omega 1 in Kavango East Region, Tsintsabis in Otjikoto Region, Witvlei and Drimiopsis in Omaheke Region, shared some of the knowledge they had gained during this project, and entertained the audience with powerful traditional and modern song and dance performances.
WLC Director Elizabeth |Khaxas praised the girls for completing this project together with the other members of the San Girls’ Groups in their villages. The project reached a total of 150 girls aged between 8 and 14 years. She said that the girls had taken active ownership of their groups, in which they created safe spaces to learn about their human rights, their history and culture, about the changes and challenges of puberty, about the prevention of child marriage, other forms of child abuse, early pregnancy and HIV, and gained skills such as building good relationships with their families and other trusted adults, as well as supportive friendships. The San Girls’ Groups were facilitated by community facilitators trained by the WLC during this project, who were also present at the event.
Ms Ayesha Wentworth, Deputy Director: Diagnostic, Advisory and Training Services in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, encouraged the girls to take pride in their cultural heritage, and to complete their education.
She said: “Every girl should be in school. We know that you face so many difficulties in the process of completing school. I admire you for your courage to choose to go to school even when you are hungry, or feel like staying home with your family. I commend you for your determination to go to school even when you do not have a school uniform or basic toiletries. I know many San girls go to school even when being labelled, called names or bullied everyday because of who you are. You must know that nobody can determine your worth. You are worthy. You are worthy of an education, you are worthy of being loved and cared for. You are worthy because you are unique, and ever bouncing back from difficulties. You are worthy. Always remember that.
We see your spirit – you are resilient, courageous and strong girls. We have great hopes for you. By ensuring you stay in school we ensure that future generations of San people will also receive quality education and move out of the cycle of feeling trapped and helpless.
We, the parents, the communities, the teachers and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture have a big responsibility to do everything in our power to support you to reach your goals. We all have to strive to make our schools culturally relevant and inclusive, more tolerant, more caring. Children from all cultures and language groups must feel welcome as equals, and their respective cultures and languages must be respected, promoted and valued as gifts to the school, community and to society. I wish to encourage all San girls to fight for your rights, because the rights are on your side.”
Ms Charlemaine Husselmann – Program Manager: Gender, LifeLine/ChildLine Namibia, shared with the girls that they were welcome to call or visit the offices of Lifeline/Childline whenever they needed help and advice with problems, or just needed someone to talk to.
Ms Kileni Fernando, Coordinator of the Namibia San Council, encouraged the girls to become strong young women leaders, and aim for careers after completing their education.
Ms Suvi Valkonen, Programme Coordinator of the Embassy of Finland, congratulated the Women’s Leadership Centre for the successful completion of this project, and launched the booklet produced by the WLC for the San girls. She said that although the embassy funds had come to an end, the training and materials provided to the Community Facilitators, including the new booklet, would enable them to continue with the San Girls; Circles in their communities.
The event closed with the handing over of Certificates to the girls as well as the community facilitators, who vowed that they would keep the project alive in their communities despite the current lack of funding. They hoped that the WLC would be able to raise further funds for their work in the future.