BraveGirl 2019 participants see the world through a new lens
Edited from a report by Ella McAuliffe ‘19, UWCSEA Alumna, Dover Campus
When 50 young Eswatini women and Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa (WKUWCSA) students come together for an immersive five-day camp to dive into issues on social justice and community building, only great things can happen.
For one participant, BraveGirl – the women’s empowerment camp organised by WKUWCSA students – challenged her perspective not just on how she saw herself, but also how she understood the world:
“It showed me things that were happening around me that I didn’t see, or didn’t want to see, or admit were there before. It also let me see myself in a different light. I never thought of myself as someone who can actually do something useful in the world, but BraveGirl basically gave me a pair of really cool sunglasses, which let me see the world in such good colours.”
The BraveGirl camps are sustained through the Global Concerns programme at sister UWC school, UWC South East Asia. In August 2019, UWCSEA alumna Ella McAuliffe ‘19 together with UWCSEA Grade 12 student, Emma Lord, attended a BraveGirl camp which was jam-packed with powerful workshops, discussions on social issues, and opportunities to form connections with NGOs and businesses.
Participants explored personal and social issues within their Eswatini communities and in the wider world in a supportive and safe environment. No topic was cast as too complex or taboo: conversations delved into the realms of sexuality education, religion and feminism, LGBTQI+ issues, colourism, sexual violence and consent laws, and public attitudes towards menstruation.
The participants – aptly named Brave Girls – emerged from camp with fresh knowledge and perspectives, new skills and renewed solidarity to move forward as catalysts for change within their own communities.
Looking to the future
The future is full of Brave Girls: particularly when they are equipped with the space and the ability to get an early start on their career aspirations. Through panel discussions with current university students and women already working in a variety of industries, the BraveGirl participants explored a variety of career paths, broadening their understanding of professional fields, and empowered themselves with information on courses and application processes.
A ‘job shadowing’ day is a salient feature of BraveGirl camp. BraveGirl organisers matched up the participants’ self-identified areas of interest with NGOs and businesses which had agreed to take in interns for a day, allowing them to gain practical, hands-on understanding of the actual work conditions of their dream careers. Some of the NGOs and businesses that hosted BraveGirl participants included World Vision, Liberty Insurance and Swazi Observer.
Sammy, a BraveGirl participant, shared:
“At Job Shadowing today, I was surrounded by a bunch of guys as I was in the IT department. So I asked them what a feminist was, they said it was women who didn’t wear a bra and hated men. I explained to them that no, I had learned at BG camp that feminism is the belief in equality - that everyone should have equal opportunities.”
A space for solidarity
From samba dancing, to contemplative morning hikes, BraveGirl is a rare space for young women to express themselves and their curiosity for knowledge without limitations. Beyond forging friendships and allowing space for critical ideas and ways of thinking to be exchanged, BraveGirl cements the foundation girls and women to practise solidarity within the Swazi youth community.
“More often than not things like sexual health and sexuality are taboo and are not spoken about. However at BG they were able to come out as bisexual, speak on how virginity isn’t an accomplishment ...,” said Phumelele, a WKUWCSA student leader of BraveGirl. “As a whole I think BraveGirl Camp has created a space for girls to just be. Be themselves, feel what they feel and say what they want to say, without the judgement of the patriarchal and conservative Swazi community.”