Primary school girls were encouraged to stand up and raise their voices during an event held at Ntshinga Primary School, in Gugulethu, on Saturday August 20.
The workshop was hosted by the Girl Child Movement (GCM), with issues faced by girls being discussed with the hope of finding better ways to deal with them.
The movement promotes self-respect, love, leadership skills, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration while discussing curriculum topics such as self-esteem, decision making and broader issues facing girls.
The organisation works with girls from the age of seven to 14, and have youth programmes for those aged 14 to 24 years old.
They work with girls from Xolani, Siyazingisa, Iliwa and Walter Teka primary schools, along with Gugulethu-based community groups.
Project co-ordinator Jose phine de Klerk said the movement was launched in the 1980s to raise awareness about problems girls experienced at the hands of men.
She said they had embarked on various programmes through which they worked with primary school girls across the city, urging them to rediscover their dreams and work towards achieving them.
Ms De Klerk said the movement played a significant role in boosting girls’ confidence and hoped to strengthen the relationship between them and their mothers.
She added that some of the programmes included education and training, environmental issues, cultural activities, health care, basic journalism skills, and how to establish a business.
She said children from the townships needed to be given education and guidance which was on par with that of their peers in affluent areas. The core mission of the movement was to create a world where girls were not exploited or degraded, she said.
“I am off the view that we have to start with the young ones in whatever we do.
“It is neccessary to empower girls with skills to help them to be independent and aspire to be leaders.
“There are many challenges facing young people including the ‘blesser’ thing that has gripped our country.
“We need to do everything in our power to instil good morals to our girls like in the olden days where girls respected their bodies,” she said.
A blesser is similar to a “sugar daddy”, an older, rich man who financially supports a younger woman in return for sex or companionship.
Ms De Klerk explained that they were encouraging the girls to set up committees at their schools to look at issues they faced at school, and work with teachers and governig bodies to address their concerns.
She added that they also hoped to set up similar committees in communities.
Ms De Klerk said she believed that young people needed a platform and the space to raise their concerns without parents’ interference.
Nombulelo Ndlela, co-ordinator of the movement, said they also work with other schools in Khayelitsha and in other communities.
Ms Ndlela described low self-esteem and peer pressure as some of the challenges the girls were battling with, along with a lack of parental support.
“We need the community to invest in our girls. We know that in the yesteryears there were certain jobs that women were not allowed to do and now that we are in democratic country we need to encourage the girls to go for those jobs,” she said.
Mbali Dlamini, 13, said she felt privileged to be part of the movement as it has expanded her knowledge.
“I have learnt a lot of things here and the knowledge I have gained has changed the way I do things. The movement has boosted my confidence and now I know how to deal with peer pressure,” she said.