Training boosts girls' confidence
By Jairus Ligoo and Kamal Nidam
Nairobi, 20 June 2008 -“I do things knowing I am responsible, I am able to talk to my mother, father and other siblings with confidence and I have started to ask my father questions that I would not have been able to before. Sometimes I even explain to him about the lessons I learnt from the workshop.”
These are the words of 18-year-old Saida Noor Ahmed from Bossaso, Northeast Somalia (‘Puntland’). Saida is a beneficiary of the girls’ leadership initiative (GLDI), a UNICEF-led process that delivers interactive life skills’ sessions enabling girls to discuss various social issues affecting them and to engage with parents and leaders to have the issues addressed.
Through the initiative, Saida and her peers are seeing a turnaround in their relations with peers, friends and family as they are now better off at dealing with personal and social conflict. At personal level, Saida has become more adept at solving disputes between her friends in a peaceful away - a practical application of knowledge learnt from the initiative specially designed for and implemented by girls.
Saida is grateful to GLDI mentors like 20 year old Manal Ahmed Mohamed from Bari region of the semi-autonomous Puntland State of Somalia. Manal is enabling girls like Saida to learn and acquire key life skills necessary for their enhanced participation in social development. Manal is one of the 70 girls’ leadership mentors trained by UNICEF from one of its local partner organizations. She facilitates the interactive awareness raising and life skills’ sessions.
UNICEF has developed a girls’ leadership resource kit that is specifically aimed at enhancing girls’ participation in responding to various social and development challenges. Mentors like Manal find it both practical and resourceful as they facilitate these sessions. Manal does not want to be the only girl doing this and is busy mobilizing fellow girls to be part of her ‘dream team’, she organizes creative ‘speak out’ sessions where girls hold discussions and positively influence each other.
Manal understands her country’s history and knows how much damage the prolonged civil war has done not only to her but to other girls. Says Manal, “The civil war has since 1991 made living in Somalia very difficult especially for girls. People have been leaving Mogadishu for other regions seeking peace, and it has been so hard for girls to be educated let alone express themselves and to speak out.”
Manal feels that the situation in her region is improving with girls gaining exposure to different initiatives, such as the leadership one.
“We have learnt that we can continue learning and participate in social activities in different ways. I am confident and have the ability to speak out and share my opinion with other girls, boys and even parents”. Asked why she got interested in the initiative, Manal responds with a broad smile “it is different and promotes a special understanding on the essential role that girls can play in our community, take action and make a difference among peers in society”.
Manal has facilitated several girls’ workshops and ‘speak out’ sessions. She has trained 30 girls from her region as co-trainers, and together last year they reached 120 girls equipping them with knowledge on rights and life skills. Manal believes that life skills are a very important tool to be able to effectively engage with the society and to give girls the ability to understand how to make decisions, think creatively, solve and deal with personal problems and build positive peer relationships.
In the coastal town of Bossaso, it’s not only the sea waves that can be heard, but a wave of skilled girls like Saida and Manal who see themselves as young role models for girls.