To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, Alice Visionary Foundation Project (AVFP) brought girls together from three different Kisumu-area elementary schools, Migosi, Magadi, and Manyatta Primary Schools. After a rousing welcome song, facilitators asked the room full of 88 giggling girls to reach out and make a new friend. Shy at first, the girls quickly warmed up to one another and began speaking more freely as the day went on.
The girls are all participants of AVFP’s school-based Empowerment Clubs, groups in which children aged 8-16 years gather weekly, to share experiences, discuss issues of common interest, and learn new skills and ideas.
The Empowerment Club girls share many other things, including the challenges they face simply in being a girl. All reside in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, long characterized by high poverty and HIV prevalence. In a group exercise, the girls brainstormed lists of their personal challenges, ranging from menstruation to sexual abuse. To address these concerns, facilitators asked the girls to devise their own solutions, which they then shared as a group. In the course of the ensuing discussion, the girls suggested to each other that they work hard, continue with their education, be confident, support one another and to know their rights.
After discussing child rights further, the girls engaged in a body-mapping exercise in small groups. The purpose of the activity was to illustrate conflicting views people have of girls — untrue stereotypes, as well as attributes the girls know to be true of themselves. They noted that people often view girls as “emotional,” “talkative,” and of “lesser value than boys.” Despite the commonplace falsehoods, the girls knew better and drew bold outlines of themselves filled with words such as “bright,” “beautiful,” and “strong.” Every girl in the room nodded her head in agreement as others presented their body maps filled with such phrases as “great advisors,” “dancers,” “creative,” and “critical thinkers.”
The day closed with a cultural dance and celebratory lunch. The girls left with smiling faces, a new friend or two, a newfound understanding of themselves, and a realization that they have the power not only to shape their own present, but their future, as well.