ActionAid supports girls’ clubs and forums in schools, where girls can discuss any problems or concerns that they may have and share their experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.
They are led by teachers or by local ActionAid workers who understand the issues that the girls face. At the clubs, girls learn about the reproductive system and reproductive health, periods and how their bodies change during puberty. They learn about early child marriage, early pregnancy and harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation (FGM).
Girls also learn how to demand their rights, including their right to have control over their own bodies and their right to education. Most of all, the girls learn that they can create a better future for themselves.
Girls’ clubs tackle violence in Zanzibar
Zeinab, 10, lives in Zanzibar. More than one in 20 women in Zanzibar report experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence before the age of 18. Girls’ clubs are a key way of tackling violence and supporting survivors.
“We have a girls’ club at school,” says Zeinab. “In the girls’ club we’ve learnt about children’s rights – like children’s rights to participate, children’s right to get an education, and children’s rights to be able to be heard.
“The best thing is when we sit together and talk about different things. When we sit together we talk about issues of violence and then there’s a suggestion box where we can write anything that we feel or what we’ve gone through and then it really helps a lot.”
Maryam, Zeinab’s mum, says: “The girls club has helped the children a lot because after attending they come into the village and the community and they teach other children about the things that they’ve learned, like issues of violence.”
Creating change through girls’ clubs
The girls also build their self-confidence and leadership skills through the forums. These are crucial life skills that will help them to participate actively in their communities throughout their lives.
Developing these abilities also empowers them to promote girls’ rights and challenge abuse. This ensures that the change doesn’t stop with the girls themselves, but has a positive impact throughout communities.
Girls’ clubs promote girls’ education in Nigeria
Precious is a member of a girls’ club in Nigeria. Through the girls’ club, she is raising awareness of the importance of girls’ education in her community.
“I think the more girls we gather together the more power we will have,” she says.
“One of the things we do in the club is to visit girls who have dropped out of school. We visit them and tell them about the importance of school and education. Some of my friends have dropped out of school because they don’t see the benefits. Some of them have problems with their parents who don’t understand why their daughters need to go to school and so won’t find money for the school fees.”
“My ambition is to be able to talk to a Nigerian politician and tell them the importance of girls’ education in Nigeria. I want to explain the difference to them of educating girls and boys and why girls need more help because often their parents will pay the boys’ school fees and not the girls’.”