Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Womens Day 2012

The girls who live in Maronka's safe house are the women of the future and you have been supporting them to make the most of their potential whilst keeping them safe, mentally, emotionally and physically! We want to thank are some of their stories

Mahawa came to us as she was due to be married off to a much older man, when Mahawa came she could not or would not speak to anyone, the abuse she had suffered made her untrusting and vulnerable. Now Mahwa has blossomed into a thoughtful and cheerful young woman, organising the younger girls in the house, passing her strength finder course and being a positive role model to all. She speaks really good English too, especially when no-one is listening nearby.

Isata is the Girls Safe House Co-ordinator and she has first hand experience of EducAid to share with the girls having started herself in the Women's Project after missing years of education. After a few months Isata was promoted to the mainstream school and, although it was hard when she lost her father, she was able to sit her WASSCE exams and has achieved the grades necessary to attend university. Isata is now looking forward to attending university to study International Development, for now, she is enjoying working with EducAid in the Girls’ Safe House supporting young girls to become strong and independent women. Isata is one of the most strong and inspirational women I have ever met and she is a positive role model for the girls. Isata has a keen interest in human rights and talks with the girls about, gender issues, FGM, women's rights and how to become positive women in their own right.

Bintah was left to bring herself up at 2 when her mother was sent to prison. She has clearly been seriously neglected for the best part of her little life. She had a heart-breaking habit of throwing herself into the arms of all visitors, seeking a bit of love and attention but she never spoke a word. She speaks now, though, and will stand and sing a song or tell a story in front of her classmates. One of the best moments for me was when I was reading on the verandah and Bintah sat next to me and said "what is that Ann?"  and I was able to tell her all about another strong woman from Port Loko.

Mariama was kitchen skivvy to a family in Freetown; a difficult little miss who did the opposite of everything she was asked to do and got herself a regular beating as a result. Taken to Maronka to start school, at long last, she is now a delightful girl responding to love far better than she ever did to violence. She is nearly always top of her class. She is also very assertive and one day she refused to collect water from the well ( the girls have a washing rota along with many other rotas in the house to keep things running smoothly) as she said she had already done it that day......when I spoke to her and explained that the other girl on the rota was busy doing something else and that we all have days when we have to cover for others to work as part of our team. She agreed to go and get the water. When she came back I thanked her and she replied "your welcome " with a big smile. It made me smile to know that feeling when you have connected in a special way with someone.

Aunty K dreams of being a teacher, one day. Teachers are her heroes. They have saved her from a life of kitchen drudgery and now they are teaching her to read, write and play. Aunty Kay is one of the most thoughtful and kind girls I have ever met. She often shares her food with the new girls and she has been known to cut the smallest piece of fruit or fish into slivers to make sure everyone gets a taste. Amazing what a little kindness can bring to the house.

Recently I was looking through all the many photos I have taken and all the positive memories I have to cherish since we started the girls house in October 2011 and I have used some of the stories you will be familiar with in the blog, adding some updates as I have witnessed them. I feel so blessed to have been part of such an amazing positive project and to be part of supporting the positive changes in the girls confidence, self belief and learning. Without our supporters, volunteers and the brilliant EducAid team and community in Maronka none of these achievements would have been possible.

When I think about how delighted the girls were to get their new dresses, knickers, flip-flops, toiletries, how competitive the girls were towards the end of the week long sports events in mid term, the hurdles we have overcome in terms of teaching the girls not to hit each other; the delight I feel when I hear the girls saying " Ann says no beating", the washing, the teeth brushing, the assemblies, the plays, the seaside trips, the learning, watching dvd's, reading stories, playing balance ball, the dancing, the achievements, the kindness and sharing, the friendships, the simplest of things................ I feel truly happy to have been part of such a great team. Believe you me the challenges are still there daily only for today I want to concentrate on the positive.

EducAid has been encouraging women of the future for some time now. 

EducAid introduced the Womens Project in 2007 to encourage girls of any educational standard to return to school. Many girls do not have the opportunity to attend school as they are expected to stay at home and do domestic chores, then get married and have babies. Many of the girls who come to EducAid for the first time are way below the academic level for their age as they have missed so many years of schooling. Since 2007 the Women's Project has supported over 250 girls to attend the mainstream school. 

The girls Power Group continues to work with girls in the mainstream school to achieve their full potential; covering issues such as gender laws, equality and human rights.

In the most recent Social Institutions Gender Index (SIGI), published in 2009, Sierra Leone was judged to be the third worst country in the world in which to be a woman; ranking just above Afghanistan and Sudan, and below Iraq and Yemen.

SIGI estimates that nearly half of all girls in Sierra Leone aged between 15 and 19 are married, divorced or widowed. Furthermore, SIGI reports that the physical integrity of women is not sufficiently protected. Between 80 and 90 percent of women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and domestic violence is largely unpunished.

Its time for change worldwide and small small steps make big big change........keep supporting our girls and girls worldwide.

If you want to know more about our work, get involved or you know of someone else who would like to volunteer or support our work, get in touch

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