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All girls empowerment workshop at Hopely primary school Zimbabwe

A Brief Background
Part 1

I am very passionate about the subject of Girls and Women's Empowerment. I am Princess Marie-Claire Nabila Kuja. I am from Cameroon; a trained nurse and gender specialist who have engaged almost a decade's experience in writing, mentoring, adolescent girls and women's empowerment as well as a very keen interest around girls and women's stories. Almost a decade ago I started writing for an online life style magazine called E-zine on self-esteem and women empowerment. I have authored three bestselling self-help books {Amazon kindle Top 100} on self-esteem building and other empowerment related topics. I am also a self -esteem and empowerment columnist for Unlia Magazine, a New York based life style magazine. Details of my work can be found at http://www.falselabelseries.biz/
And www.unliamagazine.com

Against my background growing up in Cameroon, I was resilient and determined to break away from the ordinary and pursue my dreams to visibly contribute to development in my country and other parts of the world especially its women and girls. I missed a step as a teen and got pregnant. Life took a different turn as I was immediately stigmatized and treated like and outcast which was greatly damaging to my self-esteem. However, I had a great family who understood the importance of education and decided to give me another chance by sending me to school. Life in school was a nightmare as the bullying [taunting, teasing and name calling] got even worst. But I made a life changing decision—to make education my first and only priority. This decision changed my life because it eventually earned me an opportunity to study abroad (U S A).Education both in the classroom and reading self-help books on self- esteem building, confidence and other related topics plus my personal determination to succeed inspired, empowered and encouraged me to transform my life. In the course of my experience working with development organizations, and studying abroad {USA} I realized my passion for girls and women's empowerment grew even more and more so I kept pursuing this passion with every fiber in me.
I am excited to be a World Pulse member and I look forward to engaging as much support as I can get to improve my work and share my experiences with other vibrant women doing so much for girls and women around the world.Today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers and leaders, Women & Girls voices need to count once and for all.

The Organization

As a means of passing on the privilege I had, I set up an Organization called False Labels Global Inc. False Labels Global Inc. Which is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization established in New York in 2012, primarily seeks to provide a platform where girls and women around the world can be inspired and empowered through self-esteem building workshops and empowerment conferences. We also help girls who have the brains but no money with tuition assistance. As part of our program we assist girls to stay in school buy helping with reusable sanitary pads. While a lot of support from local and international organizations are directed at girls and women in the local communities in most African countries, I turned my focus towards the underserved girl and woman;{ rape victims, domestic violence victims, teenage moms, the very poor and disadvantaged woman, children orphaned by HIV & Aids, breast ironing victims and female genital mutilation victims}. The believe is that their self –esteem {true sense of self-worth and individuality} has been tampered with. They feel like outcast because of the shame and stigma attached to their misfortunes. They stand a greater chance of giving up in life or risk drifting through life with no sense of purpose. The truth is that in these women and girls lies a lot of untapped potentials. If given the opportunity they will become future leaders no doubt. My mission is to convince them or persuade them enough to bring those potentials out despite all odds, by making them to see and value themselves again.

Trip to Zimbabwe (The power of Internet access & Social Media)

I was born in Cameroon my parents came from very humble origin. My father was orphaned when he was six years old and my mother was married to my father before she ever got to start primary school. She was one of those whose fathers didn't see the need to educate the girl child. She was thus given away into early marriage so her bride price was used to pay school fees for her brother.

So my parents worked very very hard to give my siblings and I the best education thst we could afford.That meant I was very blessed snd privileged. But all around me I could sense that something in my society was crumbling.
Rising poverty
Gender in balance
Domestic violence
Rape n teen pregnancies
I didn't understand it so it , but I thought perhaps I could go to those who live these truths.
So at a very tender age I began to so closed to women and girls who were looked at differently by the society. This was a time in my life when I was being treated like an outcast as well.It felt painful so I brought myself to know how these people felt and the conditions that lead to hatred, violence and resentment . They had no one else.I understood then how bad it is to be discarded.I also understood how bitter it was being a woman in the hardest circumstances in the world and feeling that my very own existence is a source of shame.

The lessons that I learned in these places and have continuously learn from these people, I could never have found them in any school or in books and these were decisions that guided my character and decision and will continue for the rest of my life.

when I went to nursing school and was approaching graduation,I was already imagining how beautiful life will be.Nursing is a noble and well being job plus the opportunities to further my education.But something deep was calling.Almost everyday there was news of a girl being raped either to death or left paralyzed.Then one day I saw a picture and story of a girl in Zimbabwe who was raped and left paralyzed.On yet another day I read a story of a five years old girl raped to death by her two step brothers in Nigeria.I just dreaded every beat of it and those stories continued to hunt me.I wanted to help but didn't know how. I remember back in 2009 I was watching CNN hero awards and saw an amazing woman who has safed and empowered thousands of girls. Therefore spent almost two years trying to friend on facebook all to no avail. But finally in 2013 I got her and we connected son well -So when the trip to Zimbabwe came along I couldn't hesitate because that was something I longed for.I started women and girls of strength conference for girls like 9years old shea in Zimbabwe,12 years old teenage mother in Cameroon 7years old rape victim in India..To give access to the world I know,the people,the resources,the networks.To help them discover what is already in them despite all.It was one of the profounding moving experiences of my life .what it taught me was that anything I ever wanted to change I have the power to do it.I had just found a way to inspire and empower others.

"The truth is there are no super heros.Its just us.we are the ones that we've been waiting for". For more about my trip to Zimbabwe click on the link below.

http://muzvarebettymakoni.org/the-inspirational-woman-from-usa-crowned-p...

What solutions are you creating to make the Internet more accessible to women in your community?

During my empowerment journey Zimbabwe my team and I conducted a collective survey of the challenges the girls may be experiencing accessing the internet.Of course there are still overwhelming barriers holding women back online:In most cases it is believed that girls especially in developing countries use the internet as a means of connecting with men, making the local men to believe that's all the internet is for.There are also power outages which makes it very difficult to access the Internet. Physical safety threats on the women is a big issue as well. There is also the lack of women-friendly spaces; from government censorship to family or community attitudes towards women and girls who use the Internet. During my interactions with some of the girls and women I noted that they lack the possession of any personal tools (computer, smart phone or tablet) to access the internet on their own. Also, they cannot afford to go to the internet cafe as often as they may desire and this is further influenced by the insecurity of the girls going to the internet cafe on their own plus the high prices associated with accessing the Internet.I am aware that in selected project areas women and girls affairs are sometimes relegated to the background. This makes this class of victims to function like “stand alone computers”. My projects create a forum for them to link and learn from one another.  Unlike just hearing over the radio or television set, they get to link with other girls around the world. While these challenges are common all over the world and encountered by the women too, there is no doubt that effective intervention must evolve to remedy these challenges girls and women face accessing the internet. Indeed, the internet has revolutionized globalization and is at the centre of modern development and advancement and girls and women need to get on board to be visible and relevant.I am inspired to reach this group (the voiceless) because girls that are empowered at an early age tend to emerge empowered women who would also empower other women and minimize the demand for empowerment intervention among women tomorrow.  

Watch this space for part 2

   

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Empowerment workshop
All girls empowerment workshop at Zengeza High Zimbabwe
Empowerment workshop at Hill Bridge college Zimbabwe
more empowerment workshop pictures
Adult women and girls empowerment workshop at Makoni kingdom Zimbabwe
All girls empowerment workshop at Borrowdale Broke Academy Zimbabwe
Girls at the Makoni kingdom Zimbabwe
Hopely primary school Zimbabwe
Hopely 2013

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Comments

Kristina M's picture

Best wishes

Marie-Claire,

I was heartened to read how much emphasis you put on self esteem for girls and women. I believe no matter where you are in the world, the negative messages girls receive on a regular basis from society makes it very hard for them to feel good about themselves.

Best wishes on continuing to empower girls and women so they can feel good about themselves. By building them up, I hope they will feel more comfortable about speaking out to remove barriers that are preventing them to go online and expand their horizons.

I cannot wait to read part two.

Kristina

kujamac12's picture

My Humble appreciation

Hello there Kristina,

I really appreciate your kind words.It means the world to me for you to stop by and read my article. With God on my side I will definitely continue to reach out to girls and women around the world. Once upon a time I had a very poor self - esteem. That was a very dark place to be.But with education both in and out of classroom, plus other women's success stories and the power of social media, plus my personal determination to succeed, I have been able to build a very healthy self - esteem which now helps me to confidently share the lessons learned with others, thereby passing on the privilege I had with the opportunity of going to school.
I will be posting number 2 of How to break free from the chains of low self - esteem tomorrow. Watch my wall for it.
I humbly thank you again Kristina.
Stay very blessed,
Yours truly,
Kuja.

Tam's picture

Healing from the Roots

Dear Marie-Claire,

How wonderful to meet you through your writing. As I read your beautifully written story my mind filled with images of such expansive change made possible in the lives of so many girls and women that you have met and affected deeply. The empowerment of women and girls lies at the foundation of all we are doing. As you so clearly outline, there remains a stronghold globally affecting self esteem in women and girls, immobilizing, crushing even dreams of a safe and free future. Your work is actively eroding this stronghold, and women and girls are emerging with confidence from the chance to meet you.

You give us all many ideas on how to expand on ways to reach every woman. To know what you, yourself have survived gives hope and important information. Your voice is strong, loving and clear, and while you focus on each girl in your presence, their growing confidence is unlocking the imprisonment that cultural norms have defended. The photos are so full of strength and joy. It is uplifting to see all the beautiful, determined faces of these sisters. I too, cannot wait to read part 2.

I look forward to continuing to read about, be inspired by, and tell others about your work,

With Love in Sisterhood,
Tam

kujamac12's picture

My hat off and a bow

O whaooo! I thank God even for the birds that sing.They woke me up this morning with a beautiful song.
A song that spoke directly to my heart and made it blossom.
A song that uplifted and rekindled my soul.
A song that sowed seeds of love,hope,inspiration,empowerment ,encouragement and greatness in me.
Thank you endlessly Tam.Your are one of those birds who woke me up this morning with your kind words.It gives me the fuel to keep going.Girls and women are at the center of my existence and with God and people like you on and by my side nothing will stop me.....

I take my hat off and bow in humble gratitude to you.I will definitely put part 2 up this week.God bless you.

With much love in sisterhood.

Yours truly

Kuja.

Barbara Alago's picture

Thank you Kuja

Hello Kuja,

Its been a while since I have been touched so deeply by someone's experience that is profoundly changing the lives of others. Most times, we go through an experience and take nothing out of it. But you embraced yours and turned it into a blessing to the many girls and women who have gone through the same. I have found myself wondering like you did initially how I can help all the girls and women in my community, one day I pray I will be able to do something.

I celebrate you today and thank God for everything you are doing in these reach out projects, be it in writing or networking. I personally cant wait to see part two of this epic story.

Keep well

Barbara

kujamac12's picture

God Bless You

Hello there Barbara. How is Kampala today? Hope lovely. I appreciate you so much for your kind words my dear.It means the world. Turning my pain into gain has been one of the most profound decisions I ever made.The Bible says ,"when you water others, you water yourself".The journey I started was to share my experience and hopefully help others to heal.But I have come to realize that all I do is coming right back to me.The more I help others, the more stronger I become. I so immensely thank you for stopping by and reading my post and supporting with kind and empowering words.

I have a fan base building down in Uganda so hopefully will be there sometime. And hopefully you will have my books in your library too.
I am on facebook as mac kuja. Let's connect some more.
More of my work with girls and women are at www.falselabelseries.biz
And Facebook/ WomenWhoChangedAfrica
And Facebook/False Labels Global.

May you stay very blessed.
Yours truly,
Kuja.

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Looking and seeing

Kuja,

While there are a number of things about your story that I found inspiring, there are two that really stand out to me.

One is your emphasis on the damaging effect that labels can have on girls and women. Just because something happens to a girl or a woman does not mean they can never do anything else with their lives and all that untapped potential.You explain this so very well!

The other thing that stood out to me is the way you encourage people to really LOOK and SEE what is going on. Your attention to underserved girls and women, especially those who have been victims of violence, is a reminder of how important it is to see each person as a person and not as an event that happened to them. No wonder you are having such a profound effect on so many women.

You have really deepened my understanding today! Thank you!

Leslie Stoupas

kujamac12's picture

Words Not Enough

Greetings Leslie.

My heart truly sings for joy at your very warm, kind and empowering comment. Yes false labelling have a lasting impact if not taken care of early enough. I remember a testimony I received from a woman from the UK.She is a 65 years old retired medical doctor but have lived without confidence in herself due to labels that were placed on her when she was a teenager.
After reading book one of the False Labels Series, she called just to thank me.

She testified that she no longer look at herself as what she was called in her teen years which greatly damaged her self - esteem, but as a very special and unique human being.

So I believe my job is to make people know that we are not what the world or society or even our family and friends call us, but we are who God says we are..---

I so appreciate you Leslie and may God bless you.
Sincerely yours,
Kuja

gracest's picture

False Labels

Dear kujamac,

It was very inspiring to read Part 1 of your story today! Your assertions about the negative labels that girls receive, and how important it is to lift them out of that negative reinforcement to find the abundance of potential within, is so very true and important!
This all made me think of a quote, or idea, I heard last week: "The past is nothing but a story we tell ourselves over and over again."
The painful past that these girls experience is indeed a part of their lives, and affects them, but it does not need to be a part of their reality tomorrow. It is a story that they tell themselves, to create a label that continues to reinforce negative ideas about their place in the world. But with encouragement we can create stories in the present that will make better stories for all of these women tomorrow.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing and ideas, and allowing me to ruminate on this today.
Looking forward to reading more.

Grace

kujamac12's picture

Mind blowing indeed

Hello there Grace.

Whaoo! Your comment is absolutely mind-blowing.Am sitting here reading it over and over and words can't express the depths of gratitude within me.I appreciate you so much for your kind words.Writing or sharing personal stories is worthwhile when people like you actually stop,read,digest and give such powerful feedback.You have just sowed a seed in me.

The community I create is to empower girls and women to create their own stories,be their own kind of beauty,be authentic without apologizing and to look at their painful past not as a place of residence but a place of reference.And I pray that people like you and the world will continue to join and support me in my efforts.God bless you.....and I mean richly.

Part two of the story is on my wall so check it out

Yours truly,
Kuja

Hi Kuja!
Wow - your post was awesome! I loved reading it, I learned a lot and feel inspired. There is so much in there! I love the pictures at the end - very cool! I think it's very admirable that you focus on self-esteem and empowerment for women and girls and that you have been doing this for a decade. I love self-help books and think they make a huge difference. Your organization sounds wonderful too, and your family background is a lovely story as well: you are a shining example of what education can help accomplish!

I also like how you are an inspiration to girls and women who have been bullied, called horrible names and been stigmatized that it's possible to survive those awful experiences and come out on top - exactly like you have! You have so much courage and resolve, and you bring me hope (and I am sure many others too) that it's possible to make something good out of something bad.

Finally, in the last section where you talk about challenges for women in getting online I was really struck by your comment that men think women just use the internet as a means of connecting with men. I feel like, sadly, so often for women we are up against stereotypes like that that make women seem one-dimensional and paint them as only caring about men. This stereotypes ignores the complexities of women in general and the myriad ways women want to go online.

Thank you for your post and I look forward to reading more from you.
Best wishes,
Julia

kujamac12's picture

Victors not Victims

Hello there Julia O'Byrne.

How lovely and kind of you.Your words are so empowering and encouraging. Women and girls are bullied, stigmatized and at any least error stereotyped.I know what my work on earth is. It to find them and approach them with empathy and let them know that they were born victors and not victims. My family background was and has continued to be surperb----but what about the millions of women and girls who do not have the same privilege? I want to be there for them by God's grace.
I really do appreciate your kind words, and may God bless you richly .It means the world reading from you.

Happy Mother's Day.
Stay blessed.

P/S part two is already there on my wall.
Yours truly
Kuja.

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