By Fiona Mpofu
One of Intwasa Arts festival 2019’s most anticipated events, 100 girls 100 voices didn’t disappoint.
It was graced by proud, confident young girls from different high schools and backgrouns, young girls who took to the stage in turns to confront the social-cultural issues affecting them using their poetic prowess.
Themes were centered around child marriages, sexual harassment, the trend of Vuzu parties, the alignment of the age of sexual consent and the child act in the new constitution.
“The constitution says that the age of consent is 16 whilst on the other hand the same constitution says that a child is any person who is under the age of 18. We are fighting such discrepancies as people are taking advantage of the age of consent,” said one poet, Stacy Matarise a form 3 student from Nketa High School.
Musomngaka Mlalazi a form 6 student at Maranatha High School said such an opportunity was valuable for girls because they don’t usually have platforms to freely address issues that affect them. She added that her hope was that the issues raised would be effectively dealt with.
“We needed such a programme because when we talk of child marriage and sexual harassment it sounds like a cliché. However, such programmes remind people that these issues are a reality and it's not only happening in rural areas but in cities as well,” said Michelle T Moyo an Upper 6 form student.
The girls further highlighted that this experience was beneficial to them as they attained more information on issues affecting the girl child in society and learning of the power they had as girls in dealing with these issues.
“What we learnt is to understand the power we have as girls even as a collective group, because usually the battles that we fight are battles against child marriages and sexual harassment. These are not battles that one can win individually. So as long as we stick together and we have people who support us, I think it’s easier to get things done,” said Stilla Dube an Upper 6 form student at Eveline High School.
Girls who spoke to Amakhosikazi media said through this experience they were emancipated and the programme had boosted their self-confidence.
“I am empowered and I can safely say I am in a position to empower other girls out there,” said Musongaka. She added, “I know what I stand for, I know my worth, I now know that I have to fight for what I want as I also have rights.”
Like the popular saying goes, charity begins at home and these are the plans for Form 3 pupil Stacy Matarise who said she would use the knowledge attained during her training with Intwasa to educate the boys in her class about sexual harassment.
Tinashe Tafirenyika, a spoken word artist and poet said they worked with the girls from the stage of content creation, the writing and the performances and the highlight for her was teaching the girls to come up with content embedded with a message and communicating it concisely.
“The most important thing besides teaching them poetry is the confidence they have gained as individuals, the awareness that they now have of the world around them,” said Tinashe.
She added, “We tackled a lot of things, we spoke about Vuzu parties and we spoke about rape culture. Those are things that I only learnt about when I was an adult but they get to learn about them when they are young. Now they are more equipped to handle things that I wasn’t equipped to handle at their age.”
Lady Tshawe a performing artist, actor singer, poet and mentor said the girls were willing to learn, adding that her hopes were that the girls gained more knowledge than they had before they began the programme. She hoped that learning from poets already in the field showed them that anything they dreamt of being was possible.
“I liked the fact that children are able to use poetry to express their feelings and their ideas. It’s good to hear their voices in regards to the issues of child marriages and Vuzu parties because it will help us as adults too. It will help us to reform our programming to ensure that when we design our programmes the girls are included. I hope we have more initiatives like this because it just gives children the platform to express their views,” said Thobekile Sithole a Justice for children’s lawyer.
Twitter handle -@mthaphi