Keep Girls in School

This new program started in 2015 has caught on like wildfire.  We have already produced and distributed over 1500 kits in the remote village of Itombwe and have received orders from other parts of our province and beyond.  We are so happy that this simple solution is changing the paradigm for girls now, and as a consequence, sending them off into a new future!  

The Problem

Education for girls is the key to equality and self-confidence, but in Congo, adolescent girls begin missing 4-5 days of school every month once they start menstruating.  They stay home those days and end up falling behind their peers.  This is just one aspect of inequality inherent in a system that prepares these isolated women to stay trapped and uneducated in a cycle of oppression.  

Girl ambassadors for peace

As part of the follow-up to the Women Peace Dialogue (WPD) initiative that addresses the persisting violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), SAFECO and Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) have jointly developed the Girl Ambassadors for Peace Program.

 

Young women learn leadership skills while presenting skits about the gaps in gender equality in Congolese society, and the solutions to these problems.  Both men and women love these performances. In Bukavu, the capital of Neema’s home province, several of the skits were brought back and performed for an extra month due to popular demand!

our purpose

The overall objective of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program is to empower young women, shape future female leaders from local communities, and raise awareness of women and girls’ rights.  Specifically, we:

  • Enable young women to mature in their capacity of leadership and confidence through experience so that they will one day achieve their individual visions;

The Solution

The solution to this problem is relatively simple: Pads.  But it is more than this.  We are also working to remove the stigma and taboos around women’s menstruation and normalize it as a regular and noteworthy biological occurrence.  Our Keep Girls in School program addresses both of these issues while providing economic opportunities as well.  

The kits include:

•    Two pair of underwear

•    Two waterproof underwear shields

•    8 washable, reusable pads

•    Plastic bag for transporting and washing used pads

•    Knapsack for carrying books and the kit to school

•    Picture instructions

Production

We purchase high quality material in bulk to make the Stay in School kits. The material comes from the U.S. The plastic that is used to keep the shields from leaking is a special material called PUL. The material comes to us from Days for Girls Uganda, in Kampala. We then put it on our truck and transport it the two days up to the Center in the mountains of Itombwe, where a team of local young women have been trained in making the kits. We now have 9 sewing machines helping young seamstresses earn and income in an area where there are few other economic opportunities.  

Distribution

We are selling in schools, villages and at the open market.  The Stay in School kits retail for $8, but up to now, we have been able to sell the kits at a subsidized price of just $3, thanks to your donations. So please keep them coming! We are receiving demands from many schools in remote areas for us to come and sell the kits there.  We are currently working towards getting a motorbike so that we can increase the range of our distribution

Girl ambassadors for peace

As part of the follow-up to the Women Peace Dialogue initiative that addresses the persisting violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, SAFECO and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders have jointly developed the Girl Ambassadors for Peace Program.

 

Young women learn leadership skills while presenting skits about the gaps in gender equality in Congolese society, and the solutions to these problems.  Both men and women love these performances. In Bukavu, the capital of Neema’s home province, several of the skits were brought back and performed for an extra month due to popular demand!

Quick stats

STARTED IN: 2014    /    WOMEN REACHED ANNUALLY: 250    /    WOMEN WHO HAVE RECEIVED LITERACY TRAINING: 100

our purpose

The overall objective of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program is to empower young women, shape future female leaders from local communities, and raise awareness of women and girls’ rights. 

 

Specifically, we:

•    Enable young women to develop their leadership capacity and confidence through experience so that they will one day achieve their individual visions;

•    Train young women to conduct literacy and numeracy programs in rural communities;

•    Raise awareness in communities about the rights and value of women according to UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 (see below for more details on these important resolutions, which have been adopted into Congolese law);

•    Promote the necessity of women’s participation in peace-building;

•    Enable illiterate people to understand the concepts of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 through radio broadcasts, skits and theater, peer discussions, and dialogue.

training

We train literate young women to become Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) through instruction in leadership, basic literacy instruction skills, gender concepts, UNSCR 1325 and 1820, and the Congolese Constitution and Family Code.  This training enables the GA4P to carry out basic literacy and numeracy teaching for women and girls, and to teach communities about gender equality concepts.

 

The GA4P also play an integral role in our Keep Girls in School program.  They are responsible for the education arm of that program.  The GA4P are the ones who educate parents and school officials about the need for this program, teach younger girls about the benefits of the kits and how to use them, and deliver the kits to the schools. Their trips to the schools also inspire confidence in the younger girls whom they interact with there.  Many of these girls have never had a female teacher, have never known a woman with a salary.  Interacting with the GA4P doesn’t just give them the tools they need to stay in school; it gives them the motivation to do so.

Performance

Girl Ambassadors host radio shows on regional radio stations.  Their show, “La Force de la Femme” (The Power of Women), features conversations with influential women.

 

The Ambassadors also write and perform theater pieces that raise awareness about women’s equality.  They primarily perform in remote rural communities. 

 

Here are a few examples of their skits:

1.  Women in the Security Council

This skit talks about how women are not sought out and included in the peace and security meetings of their counties.  Fortunately, one day the chief of a village was sick and at the last minute, sent a woman to represent him. The presence of that woman in the meeting, though contested by some men, gives a new understanding and appreciation of women’s perspectives by men.

2.  Women and Independence​

This drama aims at asking women in DR Congo if they are really independent. The drama ends up by showing that women’s access to education is the key to their independence. This skit was repeated for the next month because people loved it.

3.  Domestic Violence Against Women

This scene talks about how in Congolese societies, women are still victims of domestic violence; beaten up by their husband, insulted, forced to have sexual intercourse, etc... This drama ends up by advising women how to end domestic violence against them. The skit was repeated for the next month because people loved it.

Click on a picture to see its caption
how it started

In 2013, SAFECO hosted a workshop led by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) to educate local leaders on UNSCR 1325 and 1820, which had already been adopted into Congolese law.  Even though the workshops were about the need for greater gender equality in government and the public sphere, there weren’t many women present.  Neema was one of a handful of women participating in these meetings, most from local NGOs.  Most of the other participants, and nearly all the official government representatives, were men.

 

Neema wanted to create a means for women to learn about these topics on their own, since many did not have the education or connections to participate in the official meetings.  Literate women could read about the Resolutions, but what about illiterate women?  This is how the idea of performing skits on these topics was born.

 

The Girl Ambassadors for Peace project began there in Bukavu out of this collaboration.  GNWP has since taken it around the world, from Uganda, to the Philippines, to the United States.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security

This resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.  Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict.

(From http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/)

UN Security Council Resolution 1820

UNSCR 1820 condemns the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, and declares that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”. The adoption of the resolution marked the first time that the UN explicitly linked sexual violence as a tactic of war with women, peace, and security issues. It demands that parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians from sexual violence, including training troops and enforcing disciplinary measures.

(Summary from Wikipedia)

(Full resolution viewable here)

 
 
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