We recently had the pleasure of meeting with our friends at African Impact in Cape Town, South Africa and were delighted to learn about a great initiative they’re starting called The Girl Impact. We wanted to learn more, so we sat down with Michelle Proctor to discuss further.
What is The Girl Impact?
The Girl Impact program involves volunteers and funding to support gender equality and development in Africa. Because we have strong community partnerships, fantastic teams to support volunteers along the way and a huge heap of passion about this vital initiative, we’re hopeful that we will make a measurable impact on girls’ lives in Africa. We will start broad and evolve The Girl Impact as the years go by and will learn and try different approaches to see where the successes lie. We’ve already learned we must include boys in the program, that older women can be great role models and mentors, and we must involve key community members so girls will be supported with their new knowledge and in making different choices.
How did The Girl Impact come about?
African Impact loves to push the boundaries of what volunteers can achieve and that means exploring new areas of volunteering. We had an idea earlier this year to start a project with the aim of empowering adolescent girls, and making their lives better. I happily took the job of researching the subject in more depth to see if the concept could work on the ground – and what an interesting and emotional journey it’s been!
What did you discover in your research?
Overall — girls are a powerful force for change in Africa. It’s a big statement.
Looking at all the research and stats, it makes complete sense. Giving girls in Africa the opportunity to lead a life where they have more choices and understanding of what life options are available to them will snowball into families moving out of poverty, creating stronger communities to live in and bring balanced leadership within a country.
I’ve seen the difficulties teenage girls face when I worked in the rural areas of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. As part of my research I also read the heart wrenching experiences and inspirational solutions in the book ‘Half the Sky’ which opened a world of gender equality issues to me (and led to a few tears).
How can we begin to help girls in Africa?
Yes, where do we start on our journey of helping girls whose lives make up the bleak statistics? The girls who leave school before they have a basic education, the girls who fall pregnant before the age of 15, the boys and men who think girls are there to bully and abuse or the girls who fear female genital mutilation. There are so many parts to consider and complexities to think about.
I came up with 6 areas for us to research – education, health, early pregnancy, safety, making a living and self-confidence. For each country we listed more detailed issues under each heading and then asked community partners, leaders, social workers, teachers, girls and boys to tell us what is more important to them. This step helped us find out the priorities and some of the unknown complexities lying beneath the surface. This lead us to create 3 unique projects in South Africa (Cape Town), Zambia (Livingstone) and Tanzania (Kilimanjaro) to help with these priorities and start our Girl Impact.
Why is this important on a global scale?
Gender equality is one of the UN Global Goals and it’s getting the world’s attention. It is a Global Goal that African Impact is passionate about; we want to be part of the solution on the ground and to find a way to involve volunteers who want to help change happen. It’s important to us that volunteers know they have contributed to a change – that change may be a girl who has learned why it is better to avoid pregnancy until she is older, boys who have discussed gender equality and have a more balanced view on how to treat girls, or girls who can now go to school every day as they have been taught how to make sanitary protection. Each of these small steps will lead to bigger changes and to a different future for each girl involved.
How can volunteers get involved?
We have initially launched the projects in three locations where we know volunteers can really help make an impact: Cape Town, South Africa, Livingstone, Zambia, and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Volunteers are the key ingredient to making an impact, and we invite them to participate in The Girl Impact programs in order to start empowering young girls in Africa.
I have been through an amazing journey so far as part of The Girl Impact. I really cannot wait to hear the stories, successes, learnings, challenges and changes that happen as a result of it.
‘Girls are a powerful force for change in Africa’. Come join us and be part of our Girl Impact!
Michelle Procter has been involved with African Impact for 8 years and lives in Cape Town. She heads up their sister charity, The Happy Africa Foundation as well as being involved in the responsibility and HR aspects of African Impact. Michelle has previously worked in Zululand, South Africa leading one of African Impact’s volunteer projects. Her travels have taken her to South America, Asia, Australasia, Europe and African countries to explore and volunteer (after leaving a corporate life in London). She has a passion for social development, conservation and showing her 2 young children the beauty of Africa.