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Internet Access and a Breakthrough in Many Folds Part 2

Borrowdale Broke Academy Zimbabwe during an empowerment workshop Sept 2013

Part 2

So the community I create runs virtually (online via the internet) and physically with face- to- face and group conferences and empowerment workshops. It was created as a platform for girls and young women to connect and share information among themselves to improve their knowledge - base and eventually improve their chances of a better life. My inspiration behind Women & Girls of strength Conference was to create a forum that will mobilize and motivate girls to share their experiences, their concerns and their needs within safe spaces where they would not feel vulnerable and trust that they can get the inspiration, solution and support they need.Even though some women are breaking barriers and achieving their dreams nowadays, their stories don't get to young girls and other women who need to be inspired to believe that they can also break barriers and achieve their dreams as well. We are designing series of projects that will produce digital content which will help to share these inspirational experiences in short videos, films and documentaries, that will engage and inspire the girls.We intend to build and run a very vibrant and interactive website that would inform, educate and inspire girls to be great achieving women in their communities and the world. I find that the subject of confidence, healthy self-esteem, inspiration, empowerment and so much more are carefully eroding in our society, particularly with girls and it is important that they know that their voices count and who they are matters. If they don't know that they are worthy and their voices count today, they will never be bold to speak and impact their environment tomorrow. What I know for sure is that if you educate a girl child; you educate the future because that educated girl becomes an educated mother and keeps the cycle moving.We also envisage that this online platform would become a connecting thread between the girls and we would be able to have the girls share their stories and experiences to motivate and inspire other girls. I started a book drive for Africa and will be building a state of the art library for the girls of Hopely which will be equipped with computers and free Internet access.

What recommendations do you have for technology companies and governments to make you feel safer online?

When I was 9years old I was riding on a bus with my parents to spend easter with family who lived in the city..The mood on the bus was festive -- everyone was dressed up and many carried holiday gifts. At a station about 30 minutes outside the city, I saw a teenage girl board the far end of the bus. The girl, only a couple years older than me, was carrying a baby on her back,a bag of clothes on her head and dragging a toddler along behind her. They were ragged and very poor -- their faces were streaked with dirt and their clothes were torn.I watched as the girl and her children walked down the aisle of the bus towards us, asking for money and food.The babies were crying and you could just tell it was hunger. And in every single row, no one helped them. Everyone just looked away. But I couldn't take my eyes off them. I felt so angry and ashamed -- both that no one did anything, and that there was nothing I could do to help.A few years later, when I got pregnant as a teenager and was immediately stigmatized, shamed, humiliated, bullied, nicknamed and treated like an outcast I remembered the girl I met on the bus a few years back.I could feel her pain.

That girl on the bus-- and 600 million more girls like her -- is why we as a world must radically increase our technological investments in girls and place girls at the center of the new global development agenda. And that early experience is why I launched  Women & Girls of strength Conference, An empowerment workshop curriculum that has contributed in building self-esteem and empowering more than 2000 girls and women in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Ghana, and the United States since its launch in 2013 to live their full potential.

In one of his speeches at the World Economic Forum, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told world leaders that girls are the key to ending global poverty. Investing in girls is now proven to be one of the most cost effective strategies to improve health, education and economic outcomes for poor countries around the world.Just like the girl on the bus there are 600 million girls living in poor countries who struggle to eat, attend school even though they have the brains and with low self - esteem . These girls could be our own daughters -- bright, eager to learn, with dreams and hopes for the future.These girls could become doctors, entrepreneurs and leaders of their countries. These girls could change the world with technology at their disposal.

Yet even in the face of poverty, violence and discrimination, these girls are not victims --If given the opportunity girls will be powerful leaders and inspiring agents of change.

Through Women & Girls of strength, I have learned that when we invest in a girl, she will change her own life and her family and eventually the world. And when we invest in girls' leadership and empowerment, the same girl will also change her community, her country and the world.

Women and girls of strength conference has accomplished some great strikes. Stella Ahiji from Ghana started and is leading an empowerment group of young girls in schools and churches in the Volta region of Accra Ghana ,where they use the false label series in their discussion group. We connected via Facebook.

Through the power of social media I met with Bee zoe from zimbabwe whom through my workshop overcame enormous obstacles and is improving her community, ensuring that girls can attend school and stay healthy.
Technology companies must make internet access free to girls who can not afford to pay the high prices charged at some cyber cafes.Women and girls-friendly cafes must also be created so they can feel to access the Internet. Then communities where these libraries are stationed must be educated about the broad use of the Internet.

Moral, financial, resource and other support to Women & Girls of strength Conference would be helpful to design initiatives, provide quality tools that would inspire the Girls to dream and make their voices heard. We need to continue with our global conferences meanwhile gearing up to start production of our inspirational videos and documentaries, and we also need to provide the girls with affordable tools like portable laptops, tablets or smart phones and internet subscriptions that would help them access the internet effectively and connect their voices to various global development efforts such as the Girl Declaration project that is collecting the voices of girls around the world to motivate the United Nations to include girls in the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals engineered by the Girl Effect, the Clinton Global Initiative and many other organisations working on girls issues. It would be very instructive to have girls voices connecting from across Africa to other Continents. Women & Girls of strength Conference dreams to connect the voices of girls around the world to speak to and with each other and also speak to the world that needs to hear their voices .

Even though Women & Girls of strength Conference is young we're eagerly looking forward to transforming today's girls by inspiring them and motivating them to believe in themselves and the power of their voices to change the world. We look forward to working with other organizations that are working for and with girls and women believing that together we are stronger.

The world's 600 million girls are our greatest return on investment. The time has come for our services and dollars to follow our research and our rhetoric. As a global community, we can no longer afford to look away.

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

At the Makoni kingdom Zimbabwe--Empowerment workshop 2013
More of Borrowdale girls Sept 2013
Adult women at the Makoni kingdom Zimbabwe 2013
Hill Bridge High School Zimbabwe 2013

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Comments

Emily Garcia's picture

Girls can change the world!

Dear Marie-Claire,

Thank you for this wonderful and inspiring post and for sharing your personal story with us. You are doing such important work helping girls and young women come to believe in their own power. I love when you say, "These girls could be our own daughters -- bright, eager to learn, with dreams and hopes for the future.These girls could become doctors, entrepreneurs and leaders of their countries. These girls could change the world with technology at their disposal."

Keep up the great work. I look forward to learning more about your projects!

All my best,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

kujamac12's picture

Humble Appreciation

Thank you so very much for your kind words Emily.You are so kind. Sure! what our girls especially those from marginalized,under -served and under-resourced communities really need are just the RIGHT tools and they will fly with.And I am contributing my own quota to ensure they have the right opportunities to help unleash their potentials so they can be the world leaders and changers they really are.I appreciate you so much.
Bless your heart Emily.
Yours truly,
Kuja

Julia O'Byrne's picture

I loved reading this post!

Hi Kuja!
Thank you for reminding me in your comment on your other post that Part 2 was up! I also noticed you have lots of other posts up too and I look forward to reading those. This post was awesome! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote and I found it all so inspiring. I especially agree that women and girl friendly internet cafes are a must - as well as cheaper rates so that getting online is easier. Tell me more about the book drive you are organizing. It sounds great!

All my best wishes,
Julia

kujamac12's picture

Book Drive

Greetings to you dear Julia and hope this finds you well. I apologize for the delayed response. I was a little carried away with work and family matters. However, I started a book drive a few months ago on facebook because I travelled to Zimbabwe and visited a school whose children didn't have books. It made me so sad.So in looking for a way to help I decided to start this initiative which will help them have books. I also plan to open a small library where different types of books and even computers will be available to them.The response has been awesome with friends dinating used books to us.Books are like weapons against poverty if used well. Contact me for more information. But hope this gives you an idea of what we're doing.

God bless you today and always.
Yours truly,
Kuja.

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