San girls empowerment programme
San girls living in extremely poor and marginalised communities experience a diminished sense of self-esteem, shyness and fear of self-expression, lack of ambition as well as lack of connectedness to their cultures, peers, communities and schools. They are exposed to all forms of violence including rape by men of other ethnic groups, among them police officers, army personnel and members of anti-poaching units, hostel fathers, shopkeepers, truck drivers, as well as men from their own communities. Schools in most of their communities do not provide mother tongue education for San children and have no San staff or support staff to support San learners. They exclude San history and heritage in their curriculum, and practise discrimination and violent corporal punishment against San children. Most girls drop out at a young age due to early pregnancy and motherhood. Parents may force girls into child marriage or co-habitation as a means of survival.
This programme was purposefully designed to draw from and complement the on-going work of the WLC with San young women in specific communities. Some of the young women from this programme have become mentors for the San Girls’ Empowerment Programme.
The objective of this programme is to build resilience among San schoolgirls aged 8 -14 years old, by supporting them to develop cultural pride, challenge and overcome discrimination, prevent violence and abuse including child marriage and early pregnancies, and complete their education.
We seek to promote the protective factors that have been identified internationally in work with marginalised and traumatised children, which include strengthened self knowledge, self-esteem, cultural pride, connectedness to others through friendship and building strong relationships to their parents, their mentors in this programme, supportive teachers and other community members. We also provide them with age-appropriate knowledge and skills to promote their personal development and help them to stay in school and complete their education.
San Girls Circle in Drimiopsis, Omaheke Region
ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2019
During this Phase 2 of the programme we were able to add three new villages to the four that have already been involved during Phase 1. We conducted two training of trainers’ workshops as well as local activities with San girls who are members of the San Girls Circles. The San Girls Circles provide safe spaces in which the girls can share, play, learn and grow.
3.1 TRAINING THE MENTORS
Through two training of trainers workshops held in Windhoek, 14 San community leaders from 7 villages received training as mentors for San girls aged between 8 and 14 years in their communities. They received new materials developed by the WLC director for altogether twenty meetings of their San Girls Circles.
The first training focussed on the importance of San girls knowing their history and reconnecting with their culture as the most important protective factors for marginalised indigenous children to strengthen their self-knowledge, self-esteem, cultural pride and connectedness to their community. The training also focussed on helping San girls to build strong friendships with other girls and good relationships to their parents, mentors in this programme, supportive teachers and other community members. Research has shown that finding one supportive adult can make all the difference in a vulnerable child’s life.
The second training focussed on children’s rights, puberty, sexuality, sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV prevention, and life skills such as problem solving and decision-making. The training was conducted by the WLC director, the programme officer and one of the community leaders who is a primary school teacher and an experienced facilitator for this programme.
3.2 SAN GIRLS CIRCLES
Following each training the community leaders completed ten meetings with their San Girl’s Circles. We reached almost 200 girls with this project. The feedback from the seven villages has been very positive - the community leaders report that the girls love the programme, and some are thinking of starting girls’ choirs and netball teams to keep the girls together beyond the programme and support them to complete their education.
Most of the girls in our group are orphans and were touched by the topic of building relationships with adults. Topics such as child abuse and sexual abuse helped the girls to identify different forms of abuse, how to prevent them and where to get help. Learning about their culture made them feel proud and special and strengthened their interest in their cultural heritage. The girls read some of the materials on their own and were able to explain the content in their own words. This also helps them with their reading skills. The girls share their ideas and talk about the problems they have at their homes. They feel comfortable and participate in all the activities.
Feedback from the girls
- The new girls are shy, so we help them and tell them to talk freely and feel free because we are all girls here. Learning is fun and the games are fun as well. Through the games we get to know each other, they helped me make new friends, now I have five!
- I learnt that we as San girls should stand together and help each other.
- I am talking to my parents freely and standing in front of the community.
- I can speak with my mum freely about my private life.
- I learnt how my body changes, and how to look after myself when I am on my periods.
- I like the topic healthy and unhealthy relationships; we learn how to take care of ourselves
- We learnt about different rights.
- We learn our traditional songs, dances and dramas.
- I am a creative San girl. I am proud of my culture.
- I learnt to be more close to my books than always being with my friends.
- I am now outspoken and doing well in school.
- As a San girl I want to first finish school and study. ”
Through this programme the staff and community leaders of the WLC have deepened our knowledge, understanding, skills and experience in our work with San girls in various communities in Namibia. The methodologies and materials we adapted from similar work by organisations in other countries with traumatised and extremely marginalised children are very useful, and our engagement with the San girls and their communities is rich and rewarding.
Members of the San Girls Circle in Tsintsabis