Early on in 2014, a report from Save the Children highlighted the plight of young girls in Sierra Leone many of whom believe that the only way to get what they want in life is through transactional sex. “Mobile phones represent everything that an adolescent associates with being young, hip and fashionable. They are part and parcel of the idea of what they want to become, and to get them they engage in risky sexual behavior,” Krystle Lai, the research author says. Some of the girls also admitted that they felt pressured by their families to use their bodies to contribute financially to their households. Maturity, a fully developed body, basically means that a man is now your financial plan.
Sadly this was not breaking news. Sometime ago we boldly stated on Facebook; A Man Is Not A Financial Plan, one of the slogans on our IBIM tshirts, in a bid to spark a debate. Of course the general public agreed and the usual clichéd girl power rhetoric was shared by many sandwiched by derogatory remarks about gold diggers and man eaters and then there were the personal stories of success through self-belief. Our private in box however told a different story. It told the story of a young girl who knew for a fact that she didn’t want a man to be her financial plan. She had watched her friends go that route. They never lacked. They always had the latest gadgets and fashion. She held out while they mocked her. Now she needs to pay her final year school fees. Her parents cannot afford it and she is thinking that rather than dropping out of school, a man may well be her only plan. She doesn’t want to but she is left with no choice. On seeing our Facebook status and reading the comments, she wanted to know what to do.
Vickie Remoe and I were fully aware of these socio-economic issues when we launched GoWoman Magazine. Our vision was always to create something bigger than just a publication. We wanted to create a positive lifestyle brand for the 21st Century African Woman, both at home and abroad. A brand that upholds self-love for the women of African descent, starting with our girls. As we make headway with GoWoman, we believe that we must find or make a way for our girls. It is our responsibility. We may not have the financial means to sponsor every girl through school. But that should not prevent us from doing all we can to help guide their steps and provide them with moral support. We are fully aware that the reality of living in Africa and in the diaspora are totally different for women and girls. The challenges are different and so are the opportunities. One thing that we definitely wanted to do is to bring both worlds together in a way that will be mutually beneficial.
Starting with our next issue, in the next few months we will be rolling out the I Believe In Me campaign. This campaign will be a mentoring program aiming to inspire and foster the GoWoman ethos in young African girls. In Sierra Leone we will be working with Educaid’s Women’s Project. The Women’s Project gives girls and young women who have dropped out of school or those who never even started, an opportunity to get into the school system at anytime. We are currently working on finalising a partnership with a school in Ghana.
In the short term, our focus for the campaign will be on the following:
IBIM Big Sister Program: Connecting girls with female mentors for one on one coaching, and we also use social media and technology to bring African women in the diaspora to mentees on the continent. We believe that often young girls need a trusted confidante; someone they can talk to about their concerns as they transition into adulthood, without the fear of judgement. Be it career choices, love, sex, abuse, family issues or simply navigating their way through friendships, we hope to create a virtual environment where young girls can feel safe to openly share and whenever a sister to sister chat isn’t enough, we will put them in touch with the right agencies.
IBIM Speakers Program: Taking female guest speakers into schools to challenge girls to be more and to show them solutions to their everyday problems. Our speakers program will also help to raise awareness about issues affecting women locally and internationally.
Media & Education: Creating; curating, and sharing content featuring girls and provide a space for girls to be exposed to positive girl centered media at film screenings, workshops, photo exhibits, and informal gatherings.
In the long term, we hope to provide stipends and scholarships to girls and young women interested in pursuing coursework in Mathematics, Science, and Technology.
As we work towards launching this campaign, we are in need of volunteers who believe that they would be able to serve as Big Sisters / Mentors. If you are a local or diasporan African business or career woman, at least 30 years old and interested in volunteering on this campaign, kindly fill out the form below. We intend to make it a fun and rewarding experience for all involved.
We thank you for coming on this journey with us. Together we can make a way. We appreciate your support.