By Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 18 August 2017 – As part of our adolescents and youth programme, UNFPA kick-started the 2017 National Girls Camp, which is organised by the Office of the First Lady. The camp targets girls aged 10 – 19, providing them with information on their rights and responsibilities, and equipping them with the knowledge and tools to fulfill their potential.
The 2017 National Girls Camp was held in Freetown, from the 14 – 18 August 2017, themed “Young, Empowered and Safe”. The camp was officially launched by the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Madam Sia Nyama Koroma. Also present at the launching were representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Welfare, paramount chiefs, traditional leaders, and development partners.
The week-long camp brought together 120 girls from all sixteen districts in Sierra Leone. Participants included in-school and out-of-school girls, girls with disabilities, orphans, Ebola survivors and girls from severely disadvantaged backgrounds. The objectives of the camp were to empower the girls with valuable social and life skills, educate them on their rights and entitlements, strengthen critical reasoning and logical thinking skills, cultivate leadership qualities, boost healthy emotional and psychological development, and promote positive morals and patriotism.
Learning sessions conducted included, advocacy and activism, leadership, sexual and reproductive health, gender based violence, innovation, adolescent and health hygiene and public speaking. Practical learning sessions provided the girls with the opportunity to improve their critical thinking skills by developing solutions to real-life problems. Theoretical sessions were balanced with physical exercise, games, team-building exercises and fun activities such as dancing competitions, and a talent and fashion show.
In response to the recent floods and landslides and eager to assist in helping their country to recover from the disaster, a number of girls visited the affected community members in Pentagon and handed over a personal donation of water, sanitary pads, hand sanitisers and soap to the chief for distribution to families.
“We want to do our part,” said 10-year-old Malaika, a National Girls’ Camp participant.
While in Pentagon, the girls interviewed affected community members and disseminated basic hygiene messages to pregnant women and lactating mothers. The women were encouraged to visit their local health facility to keep themselves and their babies healthy. The women interviewed have lost family members, friends, and for some, even their homes. The girls discovered that many of the women they spoke with were previously business women, but now, they have no means of an income.
‘Some of the women lost everything, now they have no way of supporting their families,” said 19-year-old Eunice, a National Girls’ Camp Marshall.
The National Girls Camp encourages social activism among adolescent girls. Previous camps resulted in the establishment of ELI Africa, an organization formed by National Girls’ Camp alumni with the goal of promoting adolescent voices and conducting advocacy on issues affecting young people. UNFPA has been a proud supporter of the National Girls Camp since its inception in 2014. At UNFPA we believe that empowering girls reduces poverty, increases economic growth and accelerates the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.