Students at Waterford Kamhlaba UCWSA lead and participate in a number of societies and clubs, whose major focus is leadership and community involvement. One of these student-led initiatives is BraveGirl Camp, a Women’s Empowerment camp held annually on the Waterford campus. This initiative was started by WK students in 2017 with the aim of bringing together Swazi teenage girls from, mostly, schools around Mbabane to engage in discussions on women’s empowerment in an urban Swazi context. The project combines a five-night residency camp, which includes a day-long job shadowing experience, as well as providing training for the teachers from the girls’ schools. During the job shadowing, the girls are given an opportunity to see the life of a working woman in business institutions around Mbabane and Ezulwini in eSwatini.
Waterford principal Stephen Lowry recently said, “BraveGirl Camp is making such a huge impact in the local community. Such initiatives are a constant reminder that we are doing something to fulfill our mission of laying a foundation for our students to become responsible citizens who have the skills, knowledge and sense of purpose to provide leadership in both Africa and the world.” The organizers of the camp see themselves as fulfilling the UWC mission. “Women empowerment leads to peace and harmony in society. Also, once women have a voice, society becomes more sustainable. Peace and sustainability are at the core of the UWC movement and that is why we see ourselves playing a role in the fulfillment of the UWC mission,” the organizers say. Read more about what the 4 Heads of the 2019 BraveGirl Camp had to say during an in-depth interview with Waterford’s Communications & Public Relations, Mancoba Mabuza:
The 2019 BraveGirl Camp…
During the second term holiday, from 12th – 17th August, the BraveGirl team successfully organized the 2019 Brave Girl Camp with the help of various facilitators including Waterford alumni and students as well as those from Waterford’s sister college, UWC South East Asia (Singapore), who are avid supporters of this initiative. The participants were students drawn from 10 high schools, namely: Hawane, Mpaka, Ka-Schiele, St Francis, St Anne’s, St Marks, Mbabane Central, Ka-Boyce, Woodlands and SOS in eSwatini. “This year we decided to involve schools from outside of Mbabane such as Hawane and Mpaka because of Community Service projects that we do with these schools; it felt good to give the opportunity to rural schools as well,” said Maru Attwood, an IB2 student from South Africa.
The participants were able to discuss issues around mental health and sexuality in a free and safe space. According to one of the organizers, the young girls are always free to express themselves on any issue during the camp. They also get a better understanding of certain concepts. Phumelele Mncina, an IB2 student from eSwatini, made an example of how some of the participants did not have an understanding of feminism until the camp. “One of them thought feminism was about hating men,” said Phumelele. Other topics that were covered during workshops empowered the girls to fully understand their sexuality, idea of beauty, self-awareness and gender equality. Maru also revealed that the participants established friendship among each other.
During the interview, the leaders explained the essence of organizing job shadowing for the girls; the whole idea is to expose them to the life of a working woman. It is also about encouraging the participants to be committed to their studies and getting them inspired by the professional women they meet in the various companies. BraveGirl have relations with companies in different industries such as banking, tourism, media and IT where the girls were attached.
On why they joined BraveGirl, the 4 Heads gave different reasons. Maru had always felt strongly about women empowerment without doing anything about it, therefore this gave her an opportunity to do something. Abdullahi Abdurrahman (IB2 student from Somalia) was inspired by young women’s experiences and he wanted to make a contribution in the fight against gender inequality. “Empowering women with knowledge is the only way to address the challenges they face,” he says. Phumelele says she has always been interested in girls’ empowerment initiatives and she would like to continue playing a role in empowering young girls. Gloriana Ye (IB2 student from Taiwan) says, “I was raised in a family that believes in gender equality and I have always wanted other girls to experience this.”
Maru, Phumelele, Gloriana and Abdullahi are so passionate about BraveGirl; they want it to continue. It is important to ensure the growth and expansion of the project, they say. They think the Annual BraveGirl Camp Alumni Reunion event is good for sustainability. “Additionally, we need to make sure that there is intensive fundraising in order for BraveGirl to be sustained,” says Abdullahi. They all want to continue with girls empowerment post Waterford because of the deeply instilled ethos. Phumelele mentioned that she has dedicated her life to getting involved in anything that hurts women empowerment.