On Friday, May 28th, 2021, The Woman Boss, in partnership with UNICEF Gambia, began a journey of workshops across 20 different schools in the country. Safe to say, this has been one of the most impactful projects we have ever conducted.
The selected schools were based in Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council, and West Coast Region. We had a two-day training at each school, focusing on Leadership and Gender-Based Violence: Child Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation and Sexual Abuse specifically. One would assume that trainings like this are needed much more by girls in rural Gambia, but you would be surprised by how neglected girls in the urban areas are. In fact, many girls in urban Gambia, despite their perceived level of privilege, are just as ignorant on the topic of leadership and gender-based violence. This is mainly because many development organizations assume that urban girls are already educated on these topics in their schools, when in reality, our cultural norms prevent such conversations. That is why it was important for us to go into schools and discuss: women in leadership, steps to take immediately after being raped, misconceptions about FGM, laws guiding child marriage, etc.
The training on Leadership raised a lot of questions. “How can you dare me to aspire to become the president of my country when I don’t even have a voice at home?”, asked a student from Jamisa Senior Secondary School. It is because of this lack of empowerment, that we need to speak up and disrupt the status quo. We need to ensure that the next generation of female leaders will not face the level of stigma and insecurity we face today.
It is appalling to learn how many different forms of Gender-Based Violence women face all around the world. Certainly, this is not solely a women’s problem and male perpetrators need to be held accountable. Nevertheless, we must still teach young girls about these issues so that they can protect themselves.
During the trainings, the Woman Boss School Ambassador from each school offered opening remarks and briefed the girls on our Policy Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Not only did this help enhance the public speaking skills of our ambassadors, but this also gave the girls in the room confidence in us, as humanitarian workers who had their best interests at heart. We provided as safe space for young schoolgirls to confidently speak up without being judged. They knew that they were not alone in this fight against GBV because there was always another person in the room who went through a similar thing and could totally relate.
“There were a lot of remarkable things about the training, but one thing that really stood out to me was how you all went out of your way, with the burning desire to see us make momentous changes in society. You truly made me believe that we, women, should never underestimate our ourselves”, says Khadija Mbakeh, our Woman Boss Ambassador from Gambian Lebanese International School.
Adama Susso, our Woman Boss Ambassador from Charles Jow Memorial Academy added, “The training was indeed impactful in my school. It made the girls feel safer, knowing that there are actually laws that protect us”. The girls from Apple Tree International School also found the training to be indispensable. All those in attendance developed a bond of unity that they lacked before the training. They even created a Woman Boss Club in their school, which their Principal was 100% in support of, to disseminate the information learned in those two days to all girls in their community.
In every school, we left a resource guide with details of hospitals, police stations, psychologists, and NGOs they can contact if they need any form of support as victims of GBV. Some of the girls even built up the courage to speak up and reach out to us about their traumas. We are happy to say that we imparted over 1,000 girls with knowledge on leadership and GBV, and shed light on the darkness they were left in. Slowly but surely, we shall attain a world where every woman, of any shape, size, and shade, will feel safe and protected, no matter where they are.
On October 23rd, 2021, we hosted an end-of-program event for this initiative. The School Ambassadors from all 20 schools showcased what they learned in the form of panel discussions, poetry recitations, and a play. In addition to school principals and parents, community stakeholders like UNICEF, Africell, Deputy Mayor of KMC Mrs. Binta Janneh Jallow, and former Vice President of The Gambia Mrs. Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang were in attendance. They were all extremely impressed with the performance of the girls.
Not only did our School Ambassadors excellently display what they have learned, but the bond of sisterhood they had built was also evident and simply beautiful. The impact of this training was felt – nobody left the room that day without feeling touched or even shedding a tear. We, at The Woman Boss, have never been more encouraged to keep doing what we are doing.
Ndey Mariam Camara
Intern and Woman Boss School Ambassador
Vice Principal of The Gambia Muslim Senior Secondary School, Mr. Fansu F. Bojang, a true #HeforShe
Africa should be led by women now because the men have failed us. We need #womenbosses!