Girl Determined

Girl Determined is a leadership project designed to assist girls ages 12-17 to avoid the pitfalls of trafficking, dangerous labor and other forms of violence, by facilitating girls' recognition of their personal and group potential. Because of our belief in girls as potential change-agents in their households, communities and nations, our program aims to increase girls' ability to make strategic life-decisions, generate choices and exercise bargaining power. This real empowerment creates opportunities for girls to better cope with their difficulties, envision alternatives and take leadership into their own hands. The underlying premise of Girl Determined work is that educating, connecti...
May 11, 2015

My Story of Change - Ja Seng Hkawn, Age 15

An IDP Kachin girl in her camp home
An IDP Kachin girl in her camp home

Warm greetings friends of Girl Determined,

Today I want to check in by sharing with you a the transcript of a recent interview of Ja Seng Hkawn. Ja Seng Hkawn comes from the far north of Myanmar, Kachin State. She is a member of the Kachin ethnic group. Ja Seng Hkawn was forced to flee with her family from their village over two years ago due to heavy artillery fire in the area. Like the other 200 internally-displaced girls in the camps of Kachin state that are active in Girl Determined's programs, Ja Seng Hkawn's life was uprooted due to the ongoing civil conflcit between the Kachin National forces and the Myanmar National army.  Your support will continue to help Ja Seng Hkawn to make friends, find joy and not only develop a plan for her future but have the confidence to work to fulfill it. 

I have edited the interview for comprehension and length.  Otherwise, these are her words, translated of course from her native Kachin. I know its a bit long, but please, take the time to hear her.  The changes she describes are invaluable, and despite ongoing conflict and injustice, cannot be taken away.

"I have many reasons for joining Girl Determined’s activities. In previous years, I had to live with my aunt’s family because my parents could not afford to support my studies. During that time I heard about a neighbor who was drug addict and raped his own daughter. I also heard about the girls being trafficked. That news frightened me. I was also afraid of being forced or pushed to getting married at a young age. I thought that perhaps by joining GD Circles, I could learn more and find ways to protect myself from such frightening things. I realized that there were many things that I didn’t know about and it seemed that joining could help me to learn some of those things.

In the beginning I was not very active. If the facilitator or coach asked me to speak, I would speak. I just followed their instructions exactly. Later on, I became more active. Once we reached the topic of Effective Listening, that really sparked me and I started to become much more active. I started to understand what it meant to “be active” and to learn actively. I have started changing in the way I speak and behave. In the past, I didn’t pay attention to anything that was going on around me. Even when someone was smiling at me, I would just ignore it. But since I have been attending GD Circles, I have begun to smile back. I have become more patient. I have become more considerate. In the past, if I had been hurt by another person, I would be only be contented if I hurt them back 3 or 4 more times. Now, I can sympathize and realize that if I get revenge, then this issue will never stop. From listening to others in the circle and from learning to organize together in sports, I have come to see that others have different experiences and opinions and I can now better understand others and am able to tolerate differences.

And, another big thing is about my life’s ambition. I have developed a series of plans in order to reach my life’s ambition thanks to sessions on goal setting. I want to be a singer. I am really impressed with artists. My plan is first, I will try to pass the matriculation. I can go for audition after matriculation. I actually have two ambitions. If I don’t become a singer, I will be a pastor. If I fail the audition, I will go to Theology school. Either way I can console depressed people. I am interested in such work. Now as I am in the IDP camp, it seems very useful to be able to console depressed people.

I have changed in other ways too. My neighbors used to say that I was a “bad girl.” I was short tempered. So, people didn’t like me much. I always reacted and responded to them, so they said I am an aggressive person. Now I don’t react much. They have changed their way of relating to me because of my changes. Now that I have attended GD Circles and I have changed and they started talking to me nicely."

Please consider supporting another girl.  More change is ahead.

With regards,

brooke

Photo credit: Andrew Stanbridge

Circles.
Circles.
A determined girl Kachin girl and her mother
A determined girl Kachin girl and her mother

Links:

Feb 9, 2015

Girls lead campaign against violence at home.

Not pleasant subjects,girls share their experience
Not pleasant subjects,girls share their experience

Greetings to all of you incredible supporters of girls' rights,

I am reaching out to thank you sincerely for your contribution to Girl Determined. We are delighted to count you as one of our amazing groups of supporters, partners and collaborators.  

 I just got back from a trip to the northern part of Burma where I was able to meet and converse with many girls from our programs.  In one of the communities through our Girl-led Campaigns Program, the girls put together a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence.  Their slogan was, Work together to end violence in the home.  This is an extremely taboo subject and it was refreshing that they tackled such a big issue. The girls there, about 70 of them, half of whom are Buddhist nuns, developed a skit and acted out their skit for the whole school as well as for the community. Throughout the skit it became clear that they had been defining violence in the home a bit differently than we are used to. They were really talking about violence committed against girls in their homes - by brothers, fathers, mothers, aunties and all.  The skits three storylines, they later explained, were derived from their own experiences of being pressured to dance in festivals in order to snag a rich husband or being beaten with a stick for not completing the house chores.  

It was heart wrenching and heart warming at the same time.  Wrenching because of what they had faced.  Warming because of their open and honest account and their fearlessness to share in our group.  Their campaign was just the beginning of a long and ongoing conversation but opened up the potential for real change in their homes and communities.  Needless to say, it was a great trip up north and your contribution has helped to push these critical conversations forward. 

Please share this and other stories with your friends and family.  Girls are driving change and need our conitnuing committment.

With thanks,

brooke

Photo credit: Andrew Stanbridge

 

 

 

Links:

Oct 14, 2014

Keep International Day of the Girl going year round!

Girls created and sang a song for change.
Girls created and sang a song for change.

On October 11th, many across the world celebrated the 3rd anual International Day of the Girl.  Adolescent girls in Myanmar joined in the celebration by asking their communities help them to achieve their potentials:

  • to break down some of the barriers that girls face to achieving their success; 
  • to support them in their educations;
  • to make sure the streets are free from violence;
  • to reduce their chore burden so they can study;

And, above all to show them love and respect as full and complete individuals. 

This year we have 2000 girls in our weekly leadership circles.  Yes, 2000! Yikes.  They come from different ethnic backgrounds and different relgions.  They come from towns, cities and rural communities.  They are 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.  They are tall, short, funny and serious.  And, yet, they all know that somehow they are being short changed. The girls decided to use International Day of the Girl to build strength and unity amongst themsleves and to invite parents, siblings, community leaders, teachers and all sorts of folks to hear their poems, watch their dances and listen to their words as they asked for real recongition.  

One of the girls from a politically active, rural community told me that when she asked her parents to attend the events put on by the girls in Girl Determined's programs, her parents dismissed her request immediately.  "They made many excuses," she said.  "So, i kept asking and kept asking until, well, finally mom mother agreed and my father followed." Thanks to the efforts of the girls in 15 communities across the country, a conversation has begun.  And, only with the ongoing and active discussion will the girls be able to keep that conversation progressing until the point that real change will occur.  The barriers girls face will become less visible. The hurdles easier to clear.

2000 girls in Burma are determined.  We are determined.  What about you?

Your support means the world to each of them.

With best wishes and girls across the world in my heart, 

brooke

donate now:

Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $25
    give
  • $60
    give
  • $120
    give
  • $175
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $60
    each month
    give
  • $120
    each month
    give
  • $175
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?