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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Teaching the girl child empowers communities

Nicole Walters

Children are among society’s most vulnerable citizens and studies continue to show the girl child as the most vulnerable member in our predominantly patriarchal societies.

The impact of gender inequality begins in the early years of life, it is with this in mind that we as Valued Citizens Initiative (VCI) decided in 2011, through our professional development programme, to change the narrative and help fight the discrimination of the girl child in vulnerable spheres of our society.

The girl child is at the centre of our iSIQALO professional development programme, which will see 189 social workers receive their accredited certificates on Friday, 16 March 2018.

These certificates, which are accredited with 40 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Points, are testament to increased knowledge and skills of these social workers in relation to dealing with the girl child; as well as an increase in their own personal awareness and development.

After completing a 10-week- long course of interactive workshops, role playing, modeling of skills and techniques to engage the clients they serve, and enhancing their professionalism, these social workers have also noted the value-add to their day-to- day duties.

They learnt how to detach from the cases they deal with while enabling their clients to find their voice and stand dignified. It also empowered them with effective communication tools to reach out to their clients from a bully girl child to a mother perpetuating the cycle of victimisation towards her children.

“The aim of the programme is to standardise the quality of services rendered to children and in particular the girl child throughout the Gauteng Province while protecting the rights of the girl child and ensuring the empowerment of girl children in all spheres namely: physical, emotional, social and mental”, says Carole Podetti Ngono, Founder of Valued Citizens Initiative.

“By so doing, the programme indirectly strives to empower the girl child in their core spheres of existence with life skills which are essential to develop her, not as a victim or wounded child, but as a dignified human being and future responsible woman.”

The programme, now in its seventh year, has trained 1147 social workers, auxiliary social workers and victim-empowerment counsellors since its inception.* It has contributed to the competence and elevated esteem of social workers in and around Johannesburg.

Mishel Manhenga, an iSIQALO alumni said the programme changed her life. "I have learnt to accept myself the way I am physically, emotionally and psychologically. I have come to the realisation that no state is permanent and if I do not like the way I am feeling, looking or thinking I am the one who has the responsibility to change it.

With this self-acceptance I am now able to stand-up for my choices; As
emotional as the experience was for Manhenga, iSIQALO is something she wishes others would benefit from.

Training provided in this programme helps social workers challenge the status-quo on gender equity in as far as it applies to the girl child.

“We believe every social worker holding a certificate at today’s ceremony has not only grown personally through the duration of this course, but professionally as well. It is our
sincere wish that the pearls deposited in them during this time would manifest in the lives of the children and the girl children in particular they encounter in their professional journey. We wish them well as in all of them is the power to mould a safer and brighter future for girls in this province,” says Podetti Ngono.

*This figure is inclusive of this year’s trainees.

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