Although Zambia developed the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act in 2011, Gender Based Violence (GBV) still persists at high rates today in Zambia, deeply entrenched in Zambian culture and norms. Out of the Southern African countries, Zambia ranks unfortunately high for GBV prevalence with 72% of women experiencing GBV in a lifetime and high associations between GBV and HIV positive status.
As a result, young girls living in Zambia face a myriad of challenges. Pressures from emerging womanhood, boys, and social media can force girls to experiment with their bodies and sexuality, though they may lack education and resources on safe and safer sex. Additionally, girls that come from poorer areas or families might not be able to negotiate or decline early childhood marriage. All of the unique pressures that girls face in their adolescence puts them at additional risk for HIV.
To address this, the Zambia Centre for Communication Programmes (ZCCP), in partnership with Peace Corps, is running Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camps across Zambia to educate and empower female youth by teaching them about GBV and HIV/AIDS. I had the great privilege of attending the GLOW camp on the Copperbelt last week and enjoyed every second of it.
The girls were from grades 8-11 and came from schools across the Copperbelt along with teacher mentors from their schools. They were mature, bright students who entered the camp ready to build relationships, learn, and contribute.
Throughout the week, we played energizing activities, danced, had lessons on reproductive organs, learned about the different types of GBV, sewed chitenge pads (reusable menstruation pads made out of chitenge fabric and towel inserts), and more. I myself learned more than ever before about sexual reproductive health!
The camp quickly became a circle of sisterhood between the participants, mentors, and coordinators where each woman felt empowered and safe to share her story. I heard powerful stories of girls seeking education, overcoming gender norms in the household to find employment, and many shared their sentiments of wanting to spread empowerment and encouragement to Zambian girls everywhere.
Alas, the week was too short, and the camp came to an end. But the lessons we learned and the stories we shared will continue on. Girls from each school, along with their teacher mentors, will now create GLOW clubs in their schools for other girls and will teach the same sessions we had on GBV and HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, ZCCP will host these camps in provinces across Zambia – empowering girls everywhere.
Photo Credit: Reena Gupta