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When girls are denied their rights to education, information or choice they are psychologically affected by the results. This denial of basic rights can be considered a form of violence. Despite its potentially severe consequences, psychological violence is usually ignored and overshadowed by physical violence in my community. This International Day of the Girl Child, I want to show that all forms of violence against girls are inter-connected.

I am a co-founder and coordinator of a girls mentoring program in Tanzania called Fahari Ya Kuwa Msichana (Pride of Being a Girl) under Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Organization. The program aims to equip girls with a sense of responsibility for other girls’ development.

“My favourite part about working with girls is that it reminds me of my journey to where I am. It reminds me of my physical, mental and emotional struggles and hence affirms my desire to make these girls’ paths to adulthood enjoyable ones.”

Participants of International Day of Girl Child 2013, carrying a message “Because I’m a Girl Educate Me.”

Working for the community came with many challenges and obstacles, especially intimidation from male peers. I was looking for an opportunity to develop my skills after school, but it was challenging to get assistance from male mentors without them intimidating, harassing or judging my success as a result of a sex exchange or favouritism. In hopes of overcoming this gender barrier and instilling a sense of sisterhood within the community, I championed the establishment of Fahari Ya Kuwa Msichana in JG Roots and Shoots. This program aims to help girls get the assistance they need when they are doing community work.

I want them to realize that the fight for girls’ rights is a fight for all of us.

Through our work at Fahari Ya Kuwa Misichana, we equip older girls with information on sex and reproductive health, communication and other leadership skills in order for them to train younger girls in their schools and communities. We recognize that age plays a major role in how we can best inform girls of their rights and that information is delivered most effectively when it comes from a peer. Our work recognizes and values the importance of letting girls be kids and teenagers while they are learning about their essential rights. We use life experiences as a backdrop, as opposed to a classroom setting, to show girls that they can make a difference in their own communities. To ensure my advocacy for girls’ rights is relevant to their needs, I work closely with girls to understand what they experience, what they need and how their needs are being met.

My hope is for girls to become self-aware in an environment where they are valued and respected, and that they go on to become positive role models for others. Only then will the cycle of violence end for the next generation.