At Skateistan we talk a lot about girls’ empowerment and future leaders. So what does that look like on the ground? Recently, we partnered with Global Girl Project to run a blended learning program to help some of the girls in our Youth Leadership program find their voice. As we mark International Women’s Day around the world, we bring you an update on what’s happening at Skateistan to change the world for girls everywhere.
Global Girl Project aims to mobilize socially-minded and community driven girls from developing countries to become leaders. They work around the world and are truly inspiring a generation of young female leaders. We saw so many synergies between their work and ours that it seemed a natural fit to introduce their Blended Learning Leadership Initiative to the girls in our Youth Leadership program.
Through this three month course, 10 girls in Afghanistan and 10 in South Africa have been learning about community development and social change movements. They also learn how they can be the true change-makers within their own communities. This is an aspect of the Global Girl program that really appealed to us, as we are always encouraging our students to understand how they can make a difference. We love the idea that children and young people can lead positive change, rather than waiting for adults to do it for them. The program then helps girls to plan and run their own community event, helping them to build skills in organization, leadership, presentation and communication.
One of the first sessions of the program is to understand the community that the girls are growing up in.
Vuyo, who is our Programs Officer in Johannesburg, said: “The girls learned about what it means to have a voice and how to use it in their communities. They have learned about the different needs that their communities have.” To do this, the girls map out their communities and identify issues within it, including how those issues affect them.
Zahra, an Educator in Mazar-e-Sharif said: “The girls have been getting a better understanding of their community and the problems that exist. Each community is different so it’s good to explore this and get their feelings about it.”
Once their community mapping is done, the girls move on to explore what it means to be a role model. Lessons showcase various community heroes around the world and the girls have a chance to reflect on the ones that resonate the most with them.
“This session was a real highlight for the girls,” Vuyo says. “We talked about how our communities often do not allow kids to talk and share their views. The girls were highly inspired by girls who are young activists who fought for their rights. I could see this really sparking something in them, that they could be those change-makers too.”
The culmination of the program is a community event and the girls can choose their own theme. In South Africa, the girls chose to raise awareness about human trafficking, while in Mazar, the girls raised their voices against child abuse.
“The girls showed their skills and learning during the event very clearly and I was really proud of them,” Zahra says. “It was their first event ever and they learned and demonstrated so many new skills, from organization and planning to adaptability and flexibility when last minute challenges come up. They also really focused on how to persuade an audience, using speeches, drama and activities to move them. Most importantly they learned that their own voices can be used and heard to fight issues. They don’t have to wait for a teacher, or an adult leader; they can be those leaders themselves.”
The girls have now graduated from the program and we begin again with new cohorts in both locations. We are also expanding the program to our Youth Leadership students in Cambodia.
Julia Lynch is the Founder of Global Girl Project and actually video called with the girls in our program to motivate them for their event. She said, “Our partnership with Skateistan has been a game-changer for Global Girl Project. To work with such an innovative organisation, and now in all three of their partner countries, has given us a glimpse at how impactful our program can be, through the power of their girls. During our last cohorts in Mazar and Johannesburg I was absolutely blown away by the focus, determination, energy, and ideas of their girls to work to create the change that they want to see. And to see the events that they created, in the middle of a global pandemic, gave me even more hope and knowing that we WILL change our communities through the leadership of our girls and women.”
For Vuyo, the program is a powerful addition to Skateistan’s Youth Leadership program. “I saw many changes; our girls identified strengths that they had but were not aware of. The event they hosted made them realize that they have much bigger strength than they have been told.”
Zahra says, “I could clearly see lots of changes in the girls in the last sessions and especially after finishing the 11 sessions of the program and holding the event. Now the girls understand the power of their voice, how to be a good listener and speaker, how they can use their voice to change the community. I could see them being more brave, strong and committed to their goals.”
And it’s not just our staff who have noticed the impact of the program.