By Hadassah Louis
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a girl in another part of the world? To live like them, eat like them, and put on the cloak of womanhood as dictated by their society.
The story of Everyday a Girl, tagged #EDAG, is a glance into the lives of ordinary women through a series of poignant photo stories. These series of images will visually express the roles, challenges, activities and duties that females in diverse communities face in their daily lives.
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a youth-led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented EDAG in order to place a strong emphasis on positively redefining the role of females in our society. This campaign highlights that gender equality and equity, woman empowerment, and safety for the girls is key to the world’s socio-economic development.
The women in Zambia’s society have their own unique story to tell. During the three years SAFIGI has been active in Zambia, we have encountered stories of girls that reflect a national view of the state of the marginalized girls in the Southern African country. In Zambia, just 35.4% of girls attend secondary school. And in this margin, 54% had reported sexual violence or harassment from a male peer or teacher. [Cornell University.2012]
SAFIGIs Alumni Photographer, Thandiwe Mumba, went on an assignment in Chipata, Zambia. She asked the rural girls ‘why they are in a rush to get pregnant?’ Their response is that they have nothing better to do, since most of them have dropped out of school due to lack of support. Teenage pregnancy is the leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19 years old worldwide. [Daily Mail Zambia. 2015]
|Alumni Photographer for SAFIGI talks to young girls about the dangers of early marriage. Photo Credit: Thandiwe Mumba|
She also met Grace, a 17 year old girl. Grace is a single mother to a 2 year old girl. She stays with her mother in Chipata. Her father died 4 years ago and so she dropped out of school in 8th grade.
|Grace dropped out of school in 8th grade. She now has a 2 year old daughter. Photo Credit: Thandiwe Mumba|
2 in 5 Zambian girls is married by 18 years old. [UNFPA. 2016.] The story of Precious Chanda, 19 years old, got married at the age of 15 in Kapiri, Zambia. She is the only surviving member of her family and thus was forced into an early marriage due to lack of support from her relatives and lack of accommodation. Her intention is to go back to school after dropping out in 11th grade. The story was contributed by SAFIGIs Activist, Busiku Handema.
|Precious got married at 15 to escape economic hardship. She has a son. Photo credit: Busiku Handema.|
The problem is more serious for the girls in peri-urban and rural areas. As seen in the picture taken by Alumni SAFIGI Public Relations Manager, Ethel Chabu, young girls return home after fetching water for house consumption. In these areas, a young girl travels long distances in search of clean drinking water; a time that could be used to study.
|Access to clean water is limited, so girls travel long distances to fetch water. Photo Credit: Ethel Chabu|
From the latter stories, it is evident that a broken family system plagued by poverty, illiteracy, disease and death, is causing social ills to the marginalized girls who have nowhere to go. Though this is not every girl’s life experience in Zambia, as we will see later in the photo series, these stories represent the many marginalized who have the potential to better their lives and contribute to the economy – given equal opportunity and a safe environment to thrive. SAFIGI will advocate their stories, and through our different workshops, provide an opportunity for the girl child to learn more about Safety.
|(Face hidden to conceal identity). A girl in Ndola who does not go to school. Photo Credit: Ethel Chabu|
At SAFIGI, Safety is classified into two; internal safety being peace of mind, heart, emotions; external safety being protection of the body, other person, and the environment. We believe Safety Education can lead to self-actualization that contributes to overall development regardless of gender or socio-economic status. You can download the Safety Education Lesson plans here or on our website; www.safetyfirstforgirls.org
The EDAG project will bring together volunteers from across the globe to speak with one voice in support of empowerment of females irrespective of economic, religious, cultural or ethnic background. The UN Online Volunteers platform provided an opportunity for online volunteers worldwide to contribute to this project.