Hometown: Manenburg, Cape Town, South Africa
Her question: Why is girls’ education so important? What can we do to help girls overcome the issues they face in going to school?
Her answer: To break it down, education is especially important for girls because, without it, girls are more vulnerable to early marriage, early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. 130 million girls across the world are out of school. This leads to larger issues such as poverty, which creates more inequality. The bottom line is, we need to be educated and treated equally.
Her wish: I want other girls who might be in difficult situations like I was to know that there is hope for a brighter future. We have to stay positive and strong, remembering that we are resilient, smart, capable, and part of a sisterhood.
“In Manenberg, girls did not have a safe place to go either physically or emotionally. Physically, our school was in the middle of two gang turfs and there was a lot of gun fire across the school. Emotionally, there were not many people we could talk to about what we were going through. So we created Safe Spaces, which are benches that girls can sit on and know that they are in a safe place where they can talk to other girls about their problems and never be judged and always be supported. We have a bench at our school and many benches all over Cape Town. These Safe Spaces help girls because it gives them the chance to get the support they need to feel hopeful about their future and continue to work hard at school and not give up.”
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Her question: How can girls and women address issues like sexual harassment and violence in their communities?
Her answer: If we as women work more to support each other before or after harassment or violence, our society could deal more effectively with these issues. Using preventative measures like early education about sex and sexual harassment can equip girls and women with the tools they need to thrive.
Her wish: Many young girls have no access to sex education. This means that women have less knowledge on how to protect themselves and promotes the systemic oppression of women.
In Tanzania, and all over the world, many girls experience rape and harassment. They are confronted by a government that refuses to help and even punishes girls for pregnancy, even when they have no control or choice in the situation. Similarly, in the United States, the government is taking action to overturn laws around abortion rights. Many people have lost a loved one to gang or gun violence, and across the country a person can walk into a school and shoot innocent students. We must hold our governments accountable for school safety, sex education, and making reporting on abuse accessible to all women and girls.
“Unfortunately, these issues are a harsh reality for women all around the world. Girls experience rape and sexual harassment in all communities, and it has become so normalized that it is not even spoken about. These girls live in a society where the police, the people appointed to protect them, may ask “what were you wearing?” at the very mention of a rape or sexual harassment case where a man is in the wrong. Every day, women feel powerless in societies that too often do nothing to help them.”
Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa
Her question: Nobody is perfect, but why do we often feel as if we’re never good enough, and that we have to change ourselves to suit other people’s ideas and expectations?
Her answer: It’s up to us to be our own person and make our own decisions. We’ve got a choice in everything in life… we decide where life takes us. I’m not saying don’t allow people to influence you or have an impact on your life. All I’m saying is that whatever happens, at the end of the day, it’s YOU who has the final say. It’s your voice and opinions that matter, and it’s your life.
Her wish: Education is the key to unlocking a great future for yourself and we really need a better education system here in South Africa. Because of apartheid, most people are struggling and are in circumstances where they cannot afford a good education, let alone any education at all. Our people have been put through a lot and are fed up with all the animosity and struggles across society. I want to be able to educate myself so that one day I’ll be able to guide our people in solving problems more effectively.
“I wish we could all stand together and create an unbreakable force, where we help and support each other. We should make the change together instead of sitting back and hoping that the world will change itself. You can be strong if you stand firmly alone, but if we stand together we are rock solid and much more powerful. I believe in us, I believe in girls!”
Hometown: Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa
Her question: How can girls get the confidence they need to stand up and become future leaders?
Her answer: Remind yourself of the challenges you have faced. It’s an important reminder, a reminder of how much you’ve grown. I truly believe that once we overcome and accept our past, it can mold and create the person we are today.
Her wish: For girls to connect, share their stories, and express their thoughts without feeling unheard. This way, we can share different points of view and draw strength in the face of our struggles .
“I was taught to be strong and not ashamed by my mother. I’ve discovered myself by being surrounded by powerful women and becoming educated through them. Now I can open doors for myself and create my own opportunities.”