Empowered Girls

Submitted by Monica Grover

Lagos, Nigeria – The following video highlights six girls from the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) in Lagos, Nigeria, who participated in the Nike Brain Trust video storytelling workshop organized by GFC:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdmOyZCGyms

At the workshop, I was struck by the girls’ strength, power, and ambition. They are full of a deep passion for learning and for developing into strong leaders, and they inspire me. Some of their statements caused me to reflect deeply, as when Maria said, “With the camera you can build a nation and you can destroy a nation.” I thought, “She gets it. They get it. They grasp the power and impact of video at a high level.” The girls see video storytelling as a platform to voice their thoughts about various social issues, as a tool to educate their communities and showcase what is taking place in their world.

After spending time talking with the six girls from KIND and understanding their experience during the workshop, what resonated most with me was how appreciative and grateful the girls were. Girls in Lagos live in an extremely patriarchal society. The commonly accepted role for women is staying home and taking care of the household. The girls of KIND are not interested in staying at home. They want to learn. They want to be leaders. They want to go to college. They embraced the opportunity to learn how to write a script, how to use a video camera, and how to edit video to share their stories. They want to use video as a tool for social change. They want to accomplish great things.

Going into the workshop, my question was, How do we continue to help empower these young girls by providing them with the tools, technology, and support to share their voices with the world and build their confidence levels even beyond the duration of this project? The Nike Brain Trust initiative seeks to explore ways to build the self-esteem of young girls through the process of learning video production and distribution, but how do we sustain this learning process and take the girls to the next level of continuing to be empowered change agents in their communities?

Many of the girls are entering twelfth grade this year, and some have already graduated from high school. Unfortunately, the girls at KIND will likely have to wait two to three years before gaining admission to Lagos’s public university—the waiting list for the public university is terribly long. The expense of private university is simply too high, so they will have to wait. So what do they do with all of this knowledge and expertise gained through the video storytelling process if they are required to take a two- to three-year break in their education to wait for college? We, as international developers and grantmakers, have a responsibility to help facilitate sustainability when we introduce a project to a community or grantee partner. We need an innovative way to create sustainability and continue the education that these girls appreciated so much. Could we create a program between high school and college that would allow the workshop participants to continue their education, with Communicating for Change (the workshop’s facilitator) as their teacher? I want to explore some options for continued education for the girls.

Maria asked me about going to school in America. I told her about possible scholarships she could apply for, but I know the process is very competitive. I also know that these girls are special and would thrive in any community. They are budding activists eager to make a positive impact in the world. Video is one tool they realized they could use to make change. Maria spoke about her passion for fighting for equal rights for women, saying, “We need to change the paradigm between men and women. Women are the future of tomorrow. We are equal no matter where we come from. We are all gifts from God and we have something good. We have great ideas and we just need people to encourage us. Telling your story goes a long way in changing lives.” Again, I was blown away by the wisdom of these young girls.

Video is a powerful medium for expression, and the girls who attended the workshop are paving the way for their voices to be heard along with the voices and experiences of other girls and women in their communities. I am proud of these girls and want to find a way to help them continue the education they crave. How can we create a sustainable model of support that will empower the girls not just today but throughout their lives?

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