Why girls need role models more than ever

Every girl should have the power to choose who she wants to be and how she lives her life. That’s why Marie Claire and mothers2mothers are uniting this International Day of the Girl to celebrate the next generation of female change makers in Africa, and the women who inspired them

role models

Every girl should have the power to choose who she wants to be and how she lives her life. That’s why Marie Claire and mothers2mothers are uniting this International Day of the Girl to celebrate the next generation of female change makers in Africa, and the women who inspired them

The pandemic is all-encompassing. With Covid threatening our health in ways we're still trying to comprehend and lockdown placing limits on our freedom, it's no wonder why it's become the focal point of our daily conversations. But another pandemic has been similarly impacting the lives of young women across the world for years: HIV.

Nearly 5,500 girls across the globe aged 15-24 contract HIV every week, the majority of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa. These young women not only have to deal with the challenges of living with an incurable disease, but also with the dilemma of whether to disclose their status to their loved ones - a confession that could isolate them from the rest of their community.

Inadequate sexual health education also means that one in five adolescent girls in this region continue to fall pregnant - and Covid has added fuel to the fire. From unprecedented disruptions to their education, to greater obstacles in accessing sexual and reproductive health services - coronavirus is not only threatening their health, but their hopes and dreams.

Studies show that girls who don’t finish high school are twice as likely to be infected with HIV. There's also the associated cost to society of girls missing out on education, therefore not reaching their full potential - estimated to be as high as $3 trillion. With these figures, it's glaringly obvious that girls in sub-Saharan Africa need our support more than ever.

As we rebuild society in the aftermath of the pandemic, we have a rare opportunity to create one that is truly void of gender disparities. So that's why Marie Claire is taking a stand - by partnering with mothers2mothers to champion a world in which young women are the architects of their own future.

role models

Mothers2mothers is an African NGO that delivers transformative health outcomes, as well as empowerment opportunities for women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since it’s inception in 2001, it has employed over 11,000 women living with HIV to become role models spanning across ten countries. This incredible sisterhood of frontline workers brings health and hope to almost one million women and children each year.

Today, m2m is running a Peer Mentor program, whereby women aged 20-24 are trained to provide lifesaving health education and services to other girls within their communities. The young women become role models, touching on their own challenges and sharing the positive changes they’ve made in their own lives, to show mentees the power they have to take control of their future.

‘Before I met mothers2mothers, I was in desperate situation and had lost hope’, says 23 year-old Mary Nyabonyo. ‘But today I’m in a far better place. m2m trained me to educate my peers about sexual and reproductive health. Teenagers listen more easily to another young person than an adult, so they felt free to open up about their status and seek treatment.'

role models

To switch up the narrative and end 2020 on a hopeful note, m2m is launching it’s She’s Got the Power campaign. Running from 9th October until 2nd December, it will highlight the potential that young women have to create a healthier and brighter future for themselves and their families, with access to support and health education.

From today, m2m will be asking supporters to post on their social media channels who their role model is (be it a family member, celebrity or friend) and why. Using the hashtag #ShesGotThePower, supporters can donate £10 to m2m, and tag friends to do the same. Just £10 could pay for 800 texts for vulnerable adolescents to receive information on HIV and safer sex.

role models

'At Marie Claire, we’re privileged to work with Mothers 2 Mothers to amplify the voices of these strong young women and share the inspiring stories of their role models,' says Editor in Chief Andrea Thompson. 'We look forward to shining a light on their excellent work, championing the women who have benefitted and hosting an event in December with Mothers 2Mothers to discuss the importance of role models in women's lives .'

‘My message to girls is to believe in yourself, know that your life is important’, adds 19 year-old m2m client Betty Harunda. ‘When we all come together to achieve our dreams, we can achieve big things. Because when we empower girls, everybody benefits. When girls rise up, we all rise.’

Won’t you rise with us?

For more information on mother2mother’s She’s Got The Power campaign, visit www.m2m.org and follow @mothers2mothers on Instagram, Facebook: @mothers2mothersintl and Twitter: @m2mtweets

Look out for more news on our event with the charity on 1st December

Niamh McCollum

Niamh McCollum is Features Assistant at Marie Claire UK, and specialises in entertainment, female empowerment, mental health, social development and careers. Tackling both news and features, she's covered everything from the rise of feminist audio porn platforms to the latest campaigns protecting human rights.

Niamh has also contributed to our Women Who Win series by interviewing ridiculously inspiring females, including forensic scientist Ruth Morgan, Labour MP Stella Creasy and ITV’s former Home Affairs Editor Jennifer Nadel.

Niamh studied Law in Trinity College Dublin. It was after enrolling in a Law & Literature class on her year abroad in Toronto that her love of writing was reignited. In no particular order, her big likes are Caleb Followill, hoops, red wine, sea swimming, shakshuka and long train journeys.