By Theresa Vamboi
With support from OXFORD, the Community Action to Restore Lives (CARL) on Saturday 16th November 2019 ended its Fourth Girls’ Conference for 100 Girl Ambassadors at the Heakam Preparatory School, York Road, Waterloo in the Western Area Rural District on the theme: ‘Empowering Girls for the Future.’
The 100 Girl Ambassadors were drawn from the Pathway Academy, Sunday Foundation, Ahmadiyya Agricultural Secondary, Rural Academy Secondary, Saint Francis Roman Catholic, Tombo Junior Secondary, Saint Peters, Evangel Baptist and Russell Technical Schools in Grafton, Waterloo, Newton and Forgbo including representatives of Mothers’ Clubs from the same communities.
Mrs. Madiana Samba, founder and Executive Director of CARL disclosed that the organization is restoring the lives of the hopeless and empowering girls for a better tomorrow emphasizing that the conference is not only about formal but informal education but also entrepreneurship and skills development.
She further encouraged the girls to make salient contributions and inspire others reiterating that education would improve their lives as the aim of the conference is to catch them young.
She continued that with education, they can make informed decisions about sex, drugs and other issues affecting their lives as well as be role models, adding that one of the mandates of OXFAM is to ensure reduction in injustice and create a level-playing field for all, and that OXFAM is enthusiastic for girls to be educated and commended the organization and the Ministry of Education for their support.
According to Madiana Samba, formal and informal education is very important, and urged girls to work hard and be committed in spite of the several challenges facing them, and that in the past pregnant girls were stigmatized but that now that there are NGOs advocating for the rights, education and welfare of girls, she is appealing that they should not make themselves vulnerable. She reiterated that education brings empowerment and that CARL also works with mothers in various communities in the Western Area Rural District.
The CARL Executive Director also revealed that CARL would soon start its “E do so Campaign’, and called for more trainings while lamenting that women are tired of rape and sexual penetration, and observed that the back of girls is for their backpacks and books and not for making babies.
Some girls who give birth become untimely managers, and it is painful to be a mother and student at the same time. She appealed to them to have dignity and pride, and underscored the importance of the interactive conference to build their confidence, and that the sky should be their foundation not their limit and that the girls should keep pushing and never give up.
In his keynote address, Mr. Stephen Alie Korosah from the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) underlined that the conference would enhance government’s free quality education as well as reduce violence among girls. He recalled that the CARL project, launched four years ago, has benefited other districts including Bo and Moyamba.
He continued to say that empowerment of girls can only be realized through quality education in spite of the challenges in the free quality education program including poverty, social media/smartphones, low priority for education, poor parentage, socio-cultural practices, early/forced marriages, lack of libraries and examination malpractices.
Mr. Stephen Alie Korosah also cautioned the girls to desist from examination malpractices which the ministry is determined to eradicate. He encouraged them to take advantage of the provisions provided by government for the free quality education including the school buses, teaching and learning materials, a child-friendly environment and the second chance to take the Basic Education Certificate Examination; enrollment of dropouts, review of the code of conduct for teachers and menstrual hygiene kits.
The panel discussion focused on the significance of girls’ education and some of the barriers in attaining university education or developing a career choice, how girls can be resilient to sexual and other forms of violence within their schools and communities and the role of parents, teachers and government and community leaders.
Highlights of the conference included the establishment of ground rules by the pupils, distribution of pupils into the various houses including Restoration, Endurance, Confidence, Dignity, Success and Courage as well as the development of the action plan/charter, distribution of school bags, shoes, books and pens to the girls, bead work, arts, culture, fashion, career guidance, talent show, goal setting and presentation of certificates.