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November 20, 2015

Girls determine their own strategies for change

June: Next Generation Feminists meeting in Amsterdam. August: Thirty girls’ rights activists from Africa put their heads together in Kampala for five days. November: the With and For Girls Awards was presented for the first time, with several current or former Mama Cash grantees among the winners. In short: In 2015  the girls’ rights activism that we support became more visible than ever. The girls who spoke at all those places demonstrated how they make their own analyses, choose their own focus areas and formulate their own strategies.

Instead of having organisations made up of adult women devise or carry out activities for their young female counterparts, Mama Cash has in recent years  actively sought out girls who take matters into their own hands, as well as seeking the answer to the question of how you can support those girls as effectively as possible. Mama Cash now supports an increasing amount of initiatives and groups run for and by girls. Indeed: 2015 was a mile stone year in several respects!

First of all, we organised the Next Generation Feminists programme during the Gelijk=Anders(Equal=Different) Festival in Amsterdam in June, where four young feminists from Malawi, Kenya and the Netherlands spoke with each other and the audience about the challenges they are facing and their visions for change.

30 young activists come together in Kampala

In August, 30 emissaries from African girls’ rights initiatives came together in Kampala for an empowerment meeting at the invitation of Mama Cash and fellow women’s fund FRIDA. For example, 17-year-old Uetutjinda Kautjituavi from Namibia, who wants to empower girls against sugar daddies who lure them into relationships with presents and money; 17-year-old Patricia Moyo from Malawi, who is fighting for equal access to education for girls with a handicap; or 19-year-old Hawa Kimbugwe from Uganda, who places girls’ self-confidence and self-esteem especially high on the agenda. “Our culture teaches us to feel inferior. That is why some girls can’t say no to things they don’t want. They need to learn how to do that. That nobody is allowed to grab your buttocks, for example, when you are just walking through the city.”

Happy Mwende Kinyili, senior programme officer Bodyat Mama Cash, was also present in Kampala. “It was a wonderful meeting. The girls openly shared their experiences with each other. Together they created the political space to talk about ways of offering resistance to the social and physical limitations imposed upon them.”

Happy emphasised how important it is to keep in mind that girls need trust and support to develop their own activism. “As an adult woman, you are inclined to think: I was also young once, so I know what girls want and need. However, there is such a difference in terms of time, location and context. The girls themselves are best placed to determine strategies for the changes they deem necessary. It is also pointless to be on the defensive when it comes to girls. The reality is that many girls grow up in an unsafe environment. That is why you must ensure, above all, that they become as resilient as possible and have a place where they can meet each other and collaborate.

With and For Girls Awards

And finally: the With and For Girls Awards. On 16 November, they were presented for the first time in London. In addition to Mama Cash, the initiators were EMpower, Plan International UK and Stars Foundation, who have now also been joined by the Nike Foundation, NoVo Foundation, The Global Fund for Children and the Malala Fund. This coalition will be investing more than $1m each year in grassroots organisations that are successfully working on girls’ rights.

When this initiative was created, Mama Cash insisted on the ‘with’ aspect as part of the organisation and naming of the prize. Happy: “The winning organisations are, in other words, run by girls themselves or work in close collaboration with girls on the development, implementation and evaluation of activities. Girls were also involved in the selection of nominees per region.”

Twenty initiatives were ultimately awarded prizes. This included current Mama Cash grantees MOMUNDH from Nicaragua, the Pakistan-based Aware Girls and the Mongolian Princess Center, which was previously supported by Mama Cash. In addition to financial support, the winners also receive guidance from one of the With and For Girls partners to help build on their work.

In the coming year, Mama Cash has been partnered with award-winner Katswe Sistahood, an organisation of young women who fight for the full-scale realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights for women in Zimbabwe. Happy: “Katswe Sistahood has an extremely strong track record and I am looking forward to working with them!”