A NEW funding campaign to empower thousands of young women in Brazil has been launched by the Christian children’s charity Compassion UK, at a special brunch.
Compassion UK is looking for £20,000 in donations to publish and deliver 10,000 copies of Handbook for Girls: Empowered to thrive to its church-based projects in Brazil, to help young women to make “informed choices” about the future.
The guides, which include information on women’s health, hygiene, self-esteem, finances, and employment options, have been informed by charity workers, psychologists, and education professionals.
The national media officer at Compassion UK, Laura Rolley, explained: “One of the sustainable development goals is gender-equality: helping women across the globe to have the same level of equality that we have here to be able to work, to choose who we marry, and have financial freedom.
“The handbook is designed for all literacy levels, for girls who are not financially able to support themselves and who feel their only option is to get married. This is about telling girls they are worth more than that, and that they can choose.”
Research suggests that Brazil is the “worst place in South America to be a girl”, owing in part to high levels of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and maternal mortality, Ms Rolley said.
Supporters are being encouraged to donate £4, via text message, to fund two copies of the handbook. The 12-month fund-raising campaign is a first for the charity, which usually operates through its sponsor-a-child scheme.
More than 100,000 children are supported by British sponsors through Compassion UK, and about two million children attend its 7000 church-based projects in 25 countries.
The charity’s events and ambassadors director, Wendy Beech-Ward, said: “We work with local churches because we know they are not going to go anywhere. We build our partnership and deliver our programme to break the cycle of poverty: children are sponsored, receive health care, food assistance, and go to school.”
Evelyn, who is now a solicitor in London, was supported by a Compassion project from the age of seven, in Kenya, where she lived in extreme poverty, severely malnourished, in a slum.
She told guests at the brunch, held last month: “I was unable to walk for seven years of my life because of malnutrition. Unfortunately, my twin brother passed on. I was lucky: I survived. At the age of seven my life was changed.”
Evelyn and her two sisters were given food at a nearby Compassion centre, and taken to hospital, where she learned to walk. She was given clothes, school books, and a “safe-haven”.
“I look at the friends I grew up with. They had every potential to be whoever they wanted to be. But they couldn’t. I was lucky, because I was given a platform by Compassion to maximise my potential: someone to believe in me, to empower me.”
She referred to a recent UNESCO report, which estimated that 263 million children around the world were out of school — 1.7 million of whom are in Brazil. “That was shocking to me,” she said.
“Parents have to work to send their children to school. And sometimes, in some areas, the school is far away and the route unsafe. They are either defiled or raped, because they have to walk miles and miles to access an education.
“In other communities, the school is close by, but girls are not able to access basic sanitation: sanitary towels and good toilets. Nobody tells them about hygiene. Sometimes, teenage girls use mattresses during the monthly season.
“So most of the girls would tend not to go to school for a whole week every month, and end up missing classes until they drop out.”
Because of this, girls get married at a very young age, she said. “Think of yourself at the age of 12, married off to a man of 62, your first child at 13, your second at 14, your third at 16. Imagine being at home stuck in a marriage where you have no say: you are 100 per cent dependent on this husband who is abusive. You cannot do anything, because you are not empowered to do so.”
The event was hosted by The Sister Table, a brunch club co-founded by a former Great British Bake Off contestant, Benjamina Ebuehi, and her twin sister, Bonita.
Ms Ebuehi, who has supported Compassion UK projects in Ghana, said: “I saw the incredible and tireless work done by Compassion on the ground. It was a real joy to witness some of the creative ways that children are supported, such as the baking club we visited.
“I’m delighted to support this fantastic new project, and look forward to hearing stories of many young women being equipped with the skills they need to break free of the cycle of poverty for themselves.”
The chief operating officer of Compassion UK, Amy Carter, said: “Our hope is that, by providing simple tools around self-esteem, health, education, and employment options, we will empower girls to make informed choices about their future.”
To donate, text EMPOWER to 70140. For more details, visit www.compassionuk.org.