Part 3: We’re all the Same
In mid-December, 2018, six of AfricAid’s Binti Shupavu and Kisa Project Scholars, along with three of their Mentors, had an experience of a lifetime. They were among just 60 girls from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, and Ethiopia invited to attend the 5th annual East African Girls Leadership Summit (EAGLS) in Nairobi, Kenya. This is a unique 5-day participatory creative workshop designed for the next generation of African women leaders.
Part 3 of this three-part blog series circles back with the girls to hear about their lasting impressions of the trip, six months later.
A Wider World
For any person, the opportunity to travel somewhere new and different – anywhere – is a real confidence booster. In addition to the nice accommodations and food, and the valuable lessons and fun activities, just riding a bus from Tanzania to Kenya and experiencing the big city of Nairobi, has matured these girls and opened their eyes. For each of them, it was their first time traveling outside their country and they now feel they can go anywhere in the world! Husna attended the conference as a Year Two Kisa Scholar from Weruweru Secondary School. She explains, “I have stretched my comfort zone. I have grown more confident as I am now aware of my freedom.”
A Roommate from Another Country
All the participants agreed that getting to know girls from other countries was their favorite part of the Summit. They liked learning about each other’s cultures and traditions, educational systems, and foods. Through sharing challenges, they discovered that they actually have a lot in common. And by exchanging ideas, they left with affirmation that they can make positive changes within their communities.
Azama, a Year Three Binti Shupavu Scholar from Mawenzi Secondary School confides that before leaving on the trip she was actually afraid of sharing a room with a girl from a different country. She had never met one before. She wondered how she and a girl from a different culture and background could be good roommates. To her surprise and delight, everything turned out well and she will never forget meeting girls from other countries. Despite their diversity in terms of culture, languages, and upbringing, Azama now says, “I believe all girls are the same. We are similar in the dreams and visions we have. At the Summit, we all shared goals we wish to achieve for a successful future.”
The girls have remained in contact with friends they made at EAGLS by way of WhatsApp group messages and emails. Of course, this requires a mobile phone, which most don’t have, so they have been sending greetings through their Mentors. Perhaps some of them will cross paths at university one day!
New Learning Tools
Farida, a Year Four Binti Shupavu Scholar, also from Mawenzi Secondary School, explained how going to the Summit would help her academically. She has already improved her study skills through Binti Shupavu classes, but the use of drawings, writings, poems, songs, and skits during the Summit have added so much value to her ways of studying and retaining and communicating information. In particular, Farida has a talent for dance. Her best memory of the trip was visiting the Godown Arts Centre, which hosts exhibitions, performances, and creative workshops. “This was the right place for me! It made me realize that girls’ talents should be developed and there might even be a career in dance.”
Girls at the Summit were encouraged to speak out in a safe space in order to make the most of the opportunity. Husna observes, “I gained the confidence to face a group of people and present my ideas. Back home, I now volunteer to be the presenter in our group discussions in class. I have learned I can be a leader in my school, society, and country.”
A Lasting Impact
These six girls are an inspiration to their communities, sharing what they learned at EAGLS with classmates and friends at school and at home. They are an inspiration to their communities. In fact, Azama has started a club for girls in which she imparts her knowledge and experience from both Binti Shupavu and the Summit. “I teach them life skills and how to defend themselves.” Her family says, “Azama is now a good role model and her future is so bright! She could even become President one day.” Husna adds, “We learned a lot of affirmation words and phrases at the Summit. I now use these to encourage my Form Six classmates about their capabilities and to let them know that they should always think that they are important.”
Farida explains that because of the Summit, she gained something especially important that she never had before: a birth certificate. She lost her father when she was very young, her mom lives in another city, and she now lives with her aunt and uncle. Her traveling permits were denied until she was able to include her birth certificate with the required documents. “If it were not for Madam Mary Maika, who was patient and sympathetic to my situation, who took extra time and made many follow ups, I would not have had a chance to attend the Summit. I know she could have chosen another girl to go, but she kept saying to me ‘challenges are opportunities if we look at them with a positive mind and a strong heart.’ My ways of studying – and entire life – have improved with the people I met and the knowledge I gained at the Summit. I also now have my birth certificate, and I am so happy about it. May God bless Mary Maika everyday with love and joy in her life.”