Great Girls: The Sisterhood That’s Determined To Leave No One Behind


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In an ideal world, every girl should have equal opportunities to pursue their aspirations and be the best version of themselves. Unfortunately, we live in a society where disadvantaged children face many challenges that hinder their ability to reach their full potential.


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Currently around 60% of young people (between the ages of 15 and 25) are unemployed in South Africa. Experts suggest that this was due to a range of factors, but mainly a lack of skills and training opportunities.

It is an often-repeated mantra that education is the key to success. However, many would argue that education allied to opportunity is the golden key to breaking this cycle of unemployment.

The reality is that most young people in our country, and particularly young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, do not have access to the same opportunities to achieve greatness as other individuals. 

It is this exact reality that inspired Great Girls founder, Kristina Miller to start a non-profit organisation that aims to bridge the gap between high-school education and full-time employment for disadvantaged young girls.  

What is Great Girls?

Founded in 2014, Great Girls is an NPO run by a diverse group of professional women in Cape Town, who volunteer their time and expertise to mentor young girls in grade 11 and 12, as they prepare for the next phase of their lives.

Careers Portal spoke to Great Girls founder Kristina Miller and Chantal Bosch, who manages the Great Girls Alumni Support & Workshop team to find out more about the project.

Motivated by the need to drive change for young women in the country, Kristina says that they believe “every girl is capable of being great, but that not every girl is given the opportunity to be as great as they truly can be.” – This is where Great Girls comes in.

Our goal is to ensure that South African girls leave high school equipped with the skills to find meaningful full-time employment.

The programme is hosted in two of the most underprivileged areas in the city, one in Lavender Hill and another in Belhar.

Since its inception, a total of 260 girls have graduated from the project and each year the programme adds around 50-60 new participants.

They recruit girls from high schools in the surrounding areas to embark on a two-month long journey where they are given the opportunity to participate in various workshops with the help and support from some incredible mentors.

Through their practical workshops and mentoring, Great Girls coaches its participants on some of the most important elements in preparing for life after High School.

The workshops range from interview techniques and CV writing to budgeting and financial planning. They also host sessions on labour law, understanding the employment contract and they even educate the girls on tax returns and all things SARS related.

The programme also assists girls who wish to pursue higher education, and helps participants search successfully for jobs and funding opportunities.

Kristina notes that a lot of the sessions are also focused on confidence building, assertiveness, public speaking, networking, mental health, and self-care as these are all elements that girls in these communities struggle with.

Chantal explains that most of the girls that participate in the programme receive little to no support from their families and come from abusive households that break them down, leaving them feeling alone and worthless.

As a young girl at that age and you’re being told things like, “you're not worth anything” it’s terrible, and most of the girls on the programme face that sort of thing on a daily basis.

She says majority of the girls have the responsibility of looking after their younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, and keeping their households together, so much so that they do not have time to work on themselves and achieving their goals.

The programme has proven to not only be a space where girls come to educate and upskill themselves but also a space where they get to unlock their true potential.

Alumni Support

In addition, the project also has an amazing alumni programme that offers further support to girls who have graduated the programme. They host quarterly workshops, pamper events as well as entrepreneur market days.

Chantal explains, “One of the things we started last year is doing retreats, and it was so amazing, It was so much more than what I thought it would be."

“Earlier this year, we took the girls on a hike at Newlands forest, and the even little things like that matter to them, a couple of the girls were saying that this is the first time that they were that side of Cape Town.”

Kristina says that one of the biggest challenges they’re facing at the moment is the increased demand on supporting the girls in a more physical way.

She paints a heartbreaking picture where some of the girls arrive who haven't eaten in days, girls who stash away the food they are given so that they can take it home to share with their families.

Get Involved

Every year the programme looks to add new mentors to join the project as it is a ‘vital ingredient’ that ensures that the project operates effectively.

In order to become a mentor, Kristina explains, “You have to send us your CV, you go through a bit of a screening, you go through police clearance, all that kind of stuff. And then there's a very thorough onboarding.”

She continues, “So, you’re not just a volunteer for six months, you are signing a contract with us, to be somebody's mentor, professional mentor, for two and a half years.”

There are several other ways individuals can also get involved depending on the time and resources they have to offer. 

Chantal says they are always looking for industry leaders to share their professional expertise and advice with the participants as part of the programmes.

She says most people reach out online and via social media, “A lot of people come on board and say I'm motivational l speaker, I can give a talk on finance, I can do this, I can donate that.”

The work that Great Girls does really shines a light on why youth development programmes are critical to the success story of any South African child.

Kristina says if there’s one piece of advice that they always try to instill in the girls it would be: “Raise as you Rise”

Which in essence means, “Never let yourself fall. Keep trying to rise up but equally don’t you dare step on anybody else whilst you are trying to do that and make sure you bring everyone along with you.”

For more information on how to get involved, you can email [email protected], visit the official Great Girls website or follow their social media pages.

 

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