Every October 11, we commemorate International Day of the Girl to recognize the achievements, opportunities and challenges impacting girls and young women everywhere. We continue celebrating this year's International Day of the Girl (IDG), whose theme is Digital generation Our generation. We look back at conversations with young girls on ending harmful practices in our communities. To commemorate the #IDG2021, we partnered with girls from Nyatira village in Migori County for a girl-led dialogue to end child marriage supported by Girls Not Brides and funding from the Players of People's Postcode Lottery.
The discussion was really interactive. From the forum, poverty, GBV from family members, FGM, and school dropouts were the community's leading causes of child marriages. The need for quality education, gender equality between the sexes and openness between parents and their children was seen as critical steps in preventing child marriage.
This girl-led dialogue was supported by youth activists trained on the Girls Not bride's Stand up Speak out youth activism tool kit to end child marriage. They encouraged the girls when they shared their stories of defying odds and triumph despite everything. The session was indeed one of a kind. The girls demonstrated bravery as they shared their experiences and commitment to continue speaking out to end child marriage in their communities through girls’ movements that Msichana Empowerment Kuria supports.
In September, we had the much-anticipated cross border training for young activists from Tanzania and Kenya. The training was to reinforce the efforts made by young people to end child marriage and strengthen their skills in digital storytelling. The training was facilitated by Girls Not Brides, funding by players of People's Postcode Lottery and implemented by Msichana Empowerment Kuria in Kenya and Children's Dignity Forum in Tanzania.
The young people got the rare opportunity to learn how to incorporate storytelling in their activism, create impactful stories digitally, and share them to accelerate action to end child marriage. We caught up with some of the young people, and here are some of their sentiments.
Margret says that after the digital training, she can now create awareness on the effects of child marriage and FGM around her community while being mindful not to worsen the situation (using the do no harm approach). She adds that she is now able to report cases effectively and provide support to survivors. The digital story making session made her realize that every one of us has a story of pain, triumph and overcoming odds. All these stories are important to encourage each other. She learnt that while writing or recording stories, one should ensure the stories are short and clear and that we should never forget there is reciprocal connectivity between listening and talking, both being very important.
She fondly remembers the prototype campaign they made and the lessons that followed. She notes that since the training, she has been trying to think outside the box for campaign methods or new and uncommon ways to pass messages as she had learnt in training. She concluded by saying that child marriage needs to end because of many reasons. The main ones for her are to ensure girls get a chance to improve themselves through education and reduce the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.
Lawrence says that the training gave him a rare opportunity to interact with other young people keen to better their communities, which is rare. He says the 5 days were packed with sharing experiences and learning from each other this motivated him immensely. He notes that since the training, he can now articulate himself and what he stands for boldly and without fear. He is also creating digital stories that adequately capture his message. Furthermore, he says that the training taught him on copyright issues and going forward, he can create stories without infringing on the creatives’ copyrights. Finally, Lawrence concluded that the training gave him new zeal to end child marriage because he noted he is not alone, and together, child marriage will end.
Moses says that the forum made him realize that he can change his community through small gradual steps if he does not give up. He also notes that the training built his confidence; he is more than grateful for the opportunity to learn and share with other young people.
Jackline says that the training was personally encouraging, especially the sessions where young people shared their stories about child marriage. She says that peoples’ stories indeed encouraged her, and she learned every person has had their ups and downs, but it is within us to rise past our troubles and do better to improve our situations. As a result, she has gotten new energy to encourage young people to rise past their challenges and better our communities.
Norah notes that after the training, she can now organize small campaigns with her neighbours and discuss the harmful effects of Child marriage and what can be done to stop the practice. She says that she learnt the ideal methods to use when organizing a digital or in-person campaign. She concluded by stating the reasons child marriage should end. Here are some of the reasons;
Child marriage is a violation of human rights.
Child marriage exposes children to gender-based violence and promotes the cycle of poverty from a generation to another.
Despite child marriage being an issue affecting both girls and boys, girls are still the most affected, jeopardizing their status in the community.
Igayi notes that the training gave him the courage to work with the community despite his limited resources. In addition, the training taught him that, ‘Neutrality helps the oppressor, not the victim, and being silent encourages the tormentor never the tormented’ He vows to never stay silent on any form of violence.
Moronge quickly noted that the training equipped him to select who to partner with and work within the community. He adds that having a partner or a consortium of people who share your vision will make your efforts more impactful and meaningful.
Boke concluded that she has been able to conduct peer to peer conversations on the effects of child marriage since the training. She adds that the conversations have been impactful as her peers understand the impacts of child marriage and the need to stop the practice. She notes that while making our digital stories, we should not over edit them because they could end up being unreal and thus water down our powerful stories. From the training, she says that everyone’s story is essential because we all represent huge demography of young men and women who need to feel represented, encouraged, and inspired by our individual stories. She concluded by encouraging all the young people to own our stories with pride.
The young people learnt how to make digital stories, and from here, impactful digital stories that bring change in our communities and more digital campaigns are in the works. I cannot wait to share stories and pass the knowledge on to other young people as a young person.
NO SMURF LEFT BEHIND
MORE LIKE NO GIRL LEFT BEHIND.
‘DIGITAL GENERATION. OUR GENERATION’
**This blog was developed in partnership with youth activists in Kenya- Margaret, Lawrence, Moses, Jackline, Norah, Moronge and Boke**