The With and For Girls Awards recognise and reward girl-led grassroots organisation working to improve the lives of girls.
Through a global awards process run in collaboration by seven funders: EMpower, Mama Cash, NoVo Foundation, Plan UK, The Global Fund for Children, Nike Foundation, and Stars Foundation – the Collective’s convening partner, winning organisations each receive up to US$50,000 of flexible funding and capacity building support to help them realise their ambitions.
Girl participation is at the heart of the Awards. The final stage of the awards process is conducted through regional judging panels made up of adolescent girls. Girl-led panels in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas have final decision-making power over the choice of winning organisations. After interviewing each shortlisted organisation, the girl-led panel selects up to four organisations for an Award from their region, totalling 20 winners across the globe.
Last year’s Sub-Saharan African girl panellists selected The Organisation of Women in Sports (AKWOS) for an inaugural With and For Girls Award. AKWOS – based in Kigali, Rwanda – is recognised for its work to help build the confidence and self-esteem of young women by encouraging them to take part in sport. With its impressive reach throughout the country, AKWOS has managed to increase its number of members ten-fold since 2003. We asked them to explain a bit more about their girl-led approach.
- Tell us a bit about your organisation and the focus of its work
In 1994 Rwanda was torn apart by a destructive civil war. The subsequent genocide left many of the surviving girls raped and abused with a desperate need to rebuild their lives and their confidence. I saw that football could be a powerful instrument to re-engage and empower girls and women. Since 2003, the organisation has successfully introduced football in all provinces of Rwanda. Playing football on a mixed team with no ethnic divisions, the girls learn to depend on each other for victory and find reconciliation in the camaraderie.
AKWOS focuses on educating girls and young women in rural areas about their rights, their health and the effect of early pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, and on increasing knowledge on harassment and sexual abuse. We use sport as a unique platform to bring girls and women together to train them on their rights (gender, human, sexual), encourage them to stay in school, build their confidence and create groups where girls can continue to support and encourage each other.
- How does your organisation have a girl-led approach?
We start by understanding the needs of girls, then use this information to develop an intervention based on their feedback. We also involve girls in the planning and implementation of our activities to make sure our work is fit for purpose and meets girls’ needs.
Many of the girls who take part in our programmes go on to become role models, encouraging other girls from the community to take part. Some have gone on to form their own groups where they mentor and encourage other girls to improve in areas such as endeavouring to excel in school, trying out sports, etc.
- Why does this allow your organisation to have better impact?
It enables AKWOS to develop real partnerships with girls – rather than patronising relationships. As an organisation we are more confident that we are able to help and add value, to the best of our abilities. We believe that this kind of partnership has a much greater impact than any other form of intervention.
- How has the With and For Girls Award helped your organisation?
The With and For Girls Award has enabled us to pilot a new project called “The Girl Leader” programme. Thirty girls have been selected to take part in trainings on topics such as gender and girl rights, leadership and entrepreneurship amongst others. The girls are then encouraged to form groups and implement a project together of their choice. We envision each of them being a leader, confident and influential within their community!
At AKWOS we are currently developing a three year strategic plan, introducing working on a formal child protection policy, restructuring our financial management systems and will also build an M&E system. This has been possible due to the With and For Girls Award, specifically because it offers flexibility, allowing us to decide where the funds should be spent. It is reassuring to know that if something unexpected and important comes up, we will be able to respond due to the flexible nature of the award funding.
- What advice would you give to the 2016 winners?
By being a winner, you are already a great example. Keep growing, keep standing out, keep improving the lives of our girls worldwide.
- You were selected by a panels of girls – what do you think about this approach of involving girls in funding decisions?
We think it’s great! We feel that it validates the work we are doing in prioritizing girls. This award encouraged us to go further by deciding to have a project focused solely on girls.
Look here to find out more about the With and For Girls Awards