Written by Chhavi Sharma
Ish… Ish… Ishaka echoed the Mission Suedoise hall full of more than 80 adolescent girls in Bujumbura, all between the ages of 14 and 22. Eager to learn about how to use their solar-powered and wind-up Lifeline radios and how to get the most out of the financial literacy, sexual and reproductive health, and life skills programmes created for them by Radio Publique Africaine, the girls listened enthusiastically and participated actively as I conducted the training.
Despite the interpretation time lag – from French to Kirundi and Swahili – the girls were bursting with questions about the radios and the Guardian Agreements. They were impatient to know why only one person had been selected as the safe-keeper of the radio, and if it was a fair process in the Solidarity Groups, as the group’s savings are kept in a locked box that has three padlocks, held by three different girls. The girls, part of a CARE International’s village savings and loans project in Burundi, were some of the most outspoken, articulate and interactive beneficiaries that I have come across in my training sessions and were a real pleasure to work with.
The Iskaha project aims to educate girls to access safe savings and financial resources, as well as improve life skills and social support systems, to enable them to steer the transitions from adolescence to adulthood.