Consul General Frances Chisholm lent USG support for the girl child at three events commemorating International Day of the Girl Child. On October 9, in support of the KZN Youth Empowerment Program, led by the alumnus of the U.S. Government’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) she attended an event with about 30 young girls at the Cato Manor Library in Durban. After watching performances by the Program’s drama club and young musicians, she spoke of her own experiences as a young girl, and the narrow range of career opportunities open to girls in her own early childhood. But, she noted, as is the case in South Africa today, times were rapidly changing and a world of opportunities was beginning to open up for girls. The Consul General emboldened the girls to seize these new opportunities surround themselves by supportive peers and mentors, work with determination to turn their dreams into reality, and, importantly, build up their resilience. Drawing on the theme of self-improvement, Cato Manor Library Staff used the gathering to launch a “Reading Marathon,” and called on the older girls to mentor younger ones in reading. Staff also reminded the girls of Durban’s “One City One Book” Program; this month Durban is reading the biography of a Durban native son, born in Cato Manor township: A Native of Nowhere: The Life of Nat Nakasa. Child and Youth Care Program students from the Durban University of Technology also contributed to the day’s event by illustrating some of the important work being done in Durban to open horizons for young women. The students had completed their in-service training with the KZN Youth Empowerment Program.
The next day, the Consul General Chisholm traveled to KwaMashu Township, where she met with two dozen 3rd year students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College for an intense discussion about career and family decisions facing first-generation university-educated young women in Durban. NGO Youth in Action, under the leadership of yet another high-energy IVLP alumnus, facilitated a 1.5 hour focus group session that centered on how to make dreams come true, how to meet the challenges of breaking into the workforce, and, again, how to brace oneself for life’s ups and downs by building resilience.
On the actual International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), the Consul General underlined the U.S. government’s commitment to the education of the girl child in the Q&A session after the Durban premiere of the documentary film “Girl Rising.” The U.S.-produced film is at the heart of Girl Rising’s campaign to Educate Girls & Change the World. Sponsored at a major Durban cinema complex, the premiere was hosted by the South African NGO TIP – Taking Islam to the People. The audience was predominantly of Muslim school girls and KwaZulu-Natal girl-child activists and advocates. A number of participants lingered to request more information about opportunities to engage the Consulate General on this important issue.