In March of 1999 Girl Child Network (GCN) was formally established with the specific mandate to be a voice for the voiceless, particularly school-aged girls between the ages of 0 – 16-years-old. The organization was born out of the helplessness and hopelessness of the girl child in Zimbabwe, with the objective to assist girls in their quest for emancipation. GCN set out to advocate on behalf of girls and to empower them to speak out when their rights were being violated. Therein the previously forgotten girl child was able to highlight her plight regarding sensitive issues like rape, HIV/AIDS, forced marriages, premarital sex and also effectively communicate her hopes and aspirations.
Girl Child Network Worldwide envisions girls in Africa are empowered and retained in school to attain quality education with support of whole communities. Quality education in a violent free, supportive and conducive environment in the home, school and community builds their career aspirations leading them to walk in the fullness of their potential as women leaders
GCNW supports and promotes girls’ rights, empowerment, and education by reaching out to and advancing the circumstances of girls wherever they are economically deprived, at risk of abuse, subject to harmful cultural practices, or living in areas of instability. GCNW funds small grants for girls to finish school, move out of forced sex work or early marriages and start projects to support themselves. GCNW is the training center for new GCN clubs emerging around the world.
While girls have the ability to address the challenges they face, to do so they need external support. We intend to provide the means for girls to stand up in exploitive situations and claim their rights. Our programs do not seek to give a fish, but rather to give a fishing rod. Given the many obstacles girls face in Africa it is imperative that we develop a critical mass movement at the grassroots level that is vibrant and well coordinated to break the cycle of poverty and violence. This program promotes a culture of prevention and provides girls with the life skills necessary to be self-sustaining and independent. Empowerment is a lifetime investment that girls will perpetually benefit from, therein bettering their lives, communities, nations, and the world.
Girls’ Empowerment and Education Fund
The organization has launched a Girls’ Empowerment and Education Fund (GEEF), which is the first ever international girls’ fund giving girls small grants to promote self-reliance, the creation of girls’ clubs, and girl-run development projects not supported elsewhere because of various bureaucratic systems.
Girls-at-Risk Support Program
This program provides 24-hour emergency services to abused girls, especially for those who want to disclose abuse following GCNW awareness campaigns. GCNW carries out rescues for potential abuse victims, accompanies them to the police, social welfare agencies, and other children’s service and women’s organizations as appropriate. They also provide referrals for legal aid, shelter, counseling, and relocation of rape survivors. Finally, GCNW conducts self-empowerment courses to aid victims of sexual, physical, emotional, and economic abuse and offers follow-up rehabilitation, scholarships, and reinstatement into school.
Women As Role Models (WARM) Program
If a girl child is identified as endangered, the Girls-at-Risk Support Unit undertakes several strategic interventions and may implement emergency services. The unit undertakes emergency rescue missions, rehabilitation, and reintegration of girls-at-risk as well as providing access to education for survivors of abuse. The unit may also place particularly vulnerable girls within Girls’ Empowerment Villages. These are safe and secure havens for girls within the rural communities of Zimbabwe that are run by professional social workers. They allow girls to heal from abuse and get referrals from police, social services, and the judicial system. In addition, girls can access medical attention, psychological support, education, training, empowerment, and justice. The village enables victimized girls to transform into survivors and leaders. It acts to shelter and protect girls, allows for information exchange involving counseling and rehabilitation, and acts as a social support system. These villages include actual physical space with dormitories and a center where girls can gather. We will increase the number of Girls’ Empowerment Villages from the current 4, all in Zimbabwe, to a total of 8. The 4 additional villages will be located in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa.
Girls’ Empowerment Villages
There are many influential women who want to make a difference in the lives of girls. WARM intends to mobilize women to do small acts of charity in their own communities in order to support disadvantaged girls, especially in Africa. A woman role model is one who is a great leader and achiever in all spheres of her life. She is best described as a female who has worked hard to overcome patriarchy and works as an equal partner with men in her field and inspires girls to achieve the same through moral and financial support. A woman role model is a clear example of a leader who, through sheer hard work and determination, has overcome numerous obstacles to achieve success educationally, socially, economically, and politically.
OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES
GCNW is the lead organization in the empowerment of girls worldwide. We empower formerly exploited girls and unleash their potential to become future women leaders. Our specific objectives are:
- To identify and support girls who are at risk of, or who have survived gender based violence throughout the world.
- To advance girls’ access to education, thereby encouraging the learning and growth of girls individually and collectively
- To combat economic and social inequality so as to minimize gender based violence.
The Charity plans to continue to develop and strengthen the work of girls in Africa through provision of small grants to enable girls to attain education and be protected from harmful cultural practices. Fundraising and disbursing grants from the Girls Empowerment and Education Fund is our main focus. The Charity has submitted a number of grant applications to foundations, trusts, donors and individuals and hoping this will boost the fund so that it benefits more girls. There is a five year business plan our trustees have come up with and this will guides the charity on five priority areas.
- Fundraising for the Girls Empowerment and Education Fund –Our target is £ 2 million in the next five years. In 2012 we will put more effort to reach £500 000. We are going to ensure more girls are mobilised for the Million Dollar girl to girl campaign in UK and world over so that girls donate to each other. Our women as role models program where women adopt a girl to sponsor is bring launched in 2012. We will organise another Girls Empowerment and Leadership conference in London to mobilise girls to support girls in Africa.
- Girls Empowerment and Education fund will be disbursed to support many project proposals girls have submitted .We target to support 100 000 girls in Africa attain education, prevent abuse, support for reproductive health and provision of project funding for reusable sanitary pads, advocacy and lobby for policy and law reform on child protection, elimination of harmful cultural practices, support for self help projects to economically empower especially girls from child headed families and the call by our partners for girls shelters from violence is heeded by the trustees. We hope to assist all our three chapters to set up Girls Empowerment Villages to protect girls who are abused.
- Developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for our partners so that programs and services are delivered efficiently and effectively. We have come up with a standard quality assurance manual to ensure high quality services and programs. More training will be offered in 2012.
- Girls Empowerment manuals and girls development journals are being developed to include issues on reproductive health, career, self help projects ,how to start and run girls clubs and importance of education. These will help girls develop an awareness about themselves and develop leadership skills at community level.
- Advocacy and speak out –We are going to represent girls at International conferences and ensure education and health programs are supported by donors, governments. This year we are speaking at the 2nd Conference on shelters and Mary Kay has funded us for this. Sheltering girls from violence and helping them seek justice is critical. Given many cases of rape, trafficking and harmful cultural practices perpetrated against the girl child we will advocate for international child sexual offenders registers and for Interpol to arrest some rapists who escape jail from their countries of origin. Many of them rape girls and infect them with HIV and AIDS and leave them to suffer and die. Reports coming from our partners show that many child sexual abusers enjoy impunity and this year we will work hard for our partners to be heard.