Gender-based violence and violence in schools is a major barrier to success for girls worldwide. In South Africa, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and non-sexual violence. Khayelitsha is one of Cape Town’s largest and most dangerous townships. For girls and women in the inner city, violence or the threat of violence is a fact of life.
Boxgirls South Africa is on a mission to eliminate gender-based violence and the threat of violence to girls in schools.
Our program uses high-quality education, life skills, de-escalation and self-defense training to better equip girls with the social capital and emotional resiliency to build safe and equitable communities. When girls have both opportunities and access to pursue an education education improve outcomes improve, unwanted pregnancies decrease and economic development increases.
Strong girls become strong women
Boxgirls Afterschool Leadership Education program undergoes regular project evaluations. The latest round of evaluations gathered information on the project’s impact on the violence negotiation skills, self-esteem, social capital, school performance of the participants, as well as the overall feasibility of the program.
The evaluation was conducted in two different rounds. The first round took place in eight different schools in Khayelitsha between the months January and May of 2016. The second round was held between July and October of the same year.
The study used the gold-standard of social project evaluations, the randomized control trial. The girls were assigned to two groups. One group of girls were placed in the control group and the other were put into the intervention group. Those in the control group were not Boxgirls participants and went throughout their academic year without any of our curriculum and programming. The intervention group became active Boxgirls participants and met their after school group twice a week for twelve weeks.
Boxgirls helps girls feel more empowered, safe and supported
The results of the interim report shows a positive trend towards increasing violence negotiation skills, social capital, violence awareness and school performance. Girls that completed the Girls Afterschool Leadership Education program are more likely to have higher grades in math and English and to feel empowered to stand up for themselves and those around them in situations with clear power imbalances.
The girls in the intervention group are also more likely to feel supported, both in life and in school. Girls consistently cited their Boxgirls Peer Mentor as a reliable source of support and stability. 94 to 98 percent of program participants mentioned their peer mentor as someone that they talk to when in need of help. This response rate indicates that the placement of Boxgirls Peer Mentors in schools makes them a reliable source to seek help and encouragement from. This trend holds for girls outside of the intervention group–girls who are not in the Afterschool Leadership Education program still see peer mentors as reliable and safe sources. Girls in the intervention group are also more likely to identify key stakeholders outside of the peer mentors that they can contact, like the police or a local child safety hotline. None of the girls that were surveyed in the post-test said that she wouldn’t know who to speak to in the event of an emergency.
This evaluation, and the subsequent findings, cannot be considered final until the evaluation project finishes in May 2017. However, the findings in the interim report and that are detailed in this article point to a positive trend in violence awareness, social capital, academic performance and negotiation skills. Girls in the Boxgirls program are using the curriculum to stand up for themselves in situations dealing with power and safety–making themselves and their communities safer and stronger.