CITW Botswana joins in on the Queen Esther event – Giving Girls Voices

Read the report written by Kelebogile Baitshoki, Children in the Wilderness Assistant Administrator in Botswana, on the Queen Esther visit to Maun:

Queen Esther is a non-governmental organisation that empowers the girl child and youth by training them on life and leadership skills through school outreaches, peer to peer counselling, mentorship and training. Through its projects, Queen Esther gives youth a platform to empower their peers. The organisation also uses school outreaches to carry out gender education and HIV and AIDS prevention interventions among young people. The aim is to build knowledge and decision-making skills so that youth can make healthy life choices.

The Lead Girl Project goal is to provide leadership, life skills and gender empowerment training to primary school girls in Maun in hard-to-reach villages outside of Maun where there are limited services. The Lead Girl Project begins with girls being identified by community leadership as having leadership potential. Thereafter, they are trained as leaders and facilitators and start Lead Girl Clubs in their schools and communities to educate and empower their peers. Participants in this programme are change agents and make efforts to mobilize their communities through school outreaches and kgotla meetings, with the aim of promoting leadership skills and gender equality. Their goal is to reach 80% of girls in the Ngami area. They also train key stakeholders in the different villages to support girl empowerment.

The aims and values of Queen Esther are in line with those of CITW, and as such, we were happy to be invited to the event held by Queen Esther in Komana Village in May. It is wonderful to see what other organisations in our field are doing, and to be able to support and get involved in their initiatives. The event, Community Mobilization of the Empowerment for the Girl Child, commenced with the US Ambassador, Mr Earl Miller being taken around the village by the elders of the village (including Chief Bogoma). This was to give the Ambassador a brief background of Komana so as to contextualise the challenges that the village is facing. Chief Kgosi Bogoma welcomed the American Embassy crew to his village, invited stakeholders and the villagers to his village. He was thankful that the ambassador and his team choose their village for their project as he said this shows growth of their village.

When addressing the audience Counsellor Ms. Moleta from Phuduhudu village, commented that Queen Esther’s project will do wonders for the girls in these villages, as they are vulnerable to defilement and which sometimes leads to teenage pregnancy, child/early marriages which are still being practiced in remote areas, Komana village included. She also said a girl child remains the most powerful weapon in the whole world, so empowering them now means a generation of empowered girls in the future.

Ms Vehae Tjiriange, the Programme Manager of Queen Esther, outlined the project and achievement of the programme. The Lead Girl Project, which started in 2015, has managed to train 300 girls, and form 22 Lead Girls Clubs. The project focuses on

  1. Leadership skills
  2. Encouraging the girls to become agents of change in their communities
  3. Training commissioners and teachers in 10 villages.

As the event unfolded, Ms. Oreneile Ernest, who is currently in Form 3 at Delta Waters International School, made a presentation on how Queen Esther has had a great impact in her life. She outlined that while growing up, she had low self-esteem and it was only when she encountered Queen Esther that she gained high self-esteem. She participated in the beauty pageant that was hosted by Queen Esther and during that period of practicing for the event, they underwent a series of training, preparing them to become leaders of virtue. She took this beauty pageant as a period of self-realization, not as a competition. They were working together as girls, sharing ideas and they all had one thing in mind – to emerge out of the competition as girls of virtue who will be able to have a great impact in their communities. They were not eager to win but rather to build themselves. She said it was after the competition that she managed to see sponsors who took her out of the government school and registered her to an English medium school as they saw her huge potential. She encouraged other girls to take the club seriously as they will become empowered individuals who are able to voice out their opinions.

The children from the Queen Esther club also did a drama and sang. The message was a cry of a girl child voicing out their cry to the community to protect them and stop taking advantage of them. They said they have rights, and that parents should understand that education is among those rights. In his speech, the US Ambassador Mr Earl Miller, appreciated the warm welcome by the community and the impact his office has had in their community. He told the audience that children are not the leaders of tomorrow but the leaders of today, and as such need to be empowered to be leaders of today. He thanked everyone for taking part in this event, mentioning that he will be going back to the US knowing that everything is well taken care of, and that during his period in Botswana he managed to have a great impact in different communities.

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