Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
THE 100 Girls 100 Voices poetry slam during the just ended Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo showed that young girls can speak for themselves and all they want is a platform to be heard.
The poetry slam, which was held over two days, the beginning of the festival on September 24 and last Saturday at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, had 17 schools participating.
The 100 young girls were mentored by award-winning poets; Lady Tshawe, Sibonokuhle Netha, Tinashe Tafirenyika, Sithandazile Dube and Thandokuhle Sibanda, on how to tackle their issues using poetry.
Topics that were tackled included issues of child marriages, alignment of marriage laws, child sexual offences, the scourge of Vuzu parties and empowerment of the girl child.
Eveline High School emerged as the top school during the competition organised by the festival in partnership with Plan Zimbabwe, Justice for Children Trust and support from the European Union.
On Saturday after the show, a brief chat with the pupils from various schools such as Sithembiso Nyathi doing Lower Six at Luveve High School revealed that girls want to be heard.
“I learnt that children can speak for themselves and don’t need anyone to do that on their behalf. I learnt that we shouldn’t look down on ourselves and rise up. We should also refuse to be raped and we shouldn’t go to Vuzu parties,” said Nyathi.
Majoring in arts subjects, Nyathi, who was mentored by Sithandazile Dube, said there was a need for laws to be strengthened to protect children.
Nomuhle Moyo, a Form Four pupil at Sizane High School also concurred with Nyathi saying: “My mentor was Tinashe and she’s a really great mentor. She emphasised that the content in your poem must be good because that’s the basis of your poem. People have to hear what you say and your problems and solutions.”
Memory Ndlovu, a Form Three Northlea High pupil who wrote a poem titled Early Child Marriages said she benefited immensely from the 100 Girls 100 Voices poetry slam.
“Here at Intwasa we were taught not to go to Vuzu parties because these lead to unwanted pregnancies and we can contract diseases. I want people to learn something from these poems that we came up with,” said Ndlovu.
She said she would like to thank her mentor Sibonokuhle Netha and would teach her peers.
One of the judges, Zambian poet Vanessa Chisakula said it was a difficult process as there was so much talent.
“There was a thin line between who won and who didn’t. We were looking at the theme and how the poets tackled and interpreted it and also their style and diction. Overall it was an amazing experience,” said Chisakula.
She said she was pleased to see that girls were clearly articulating their issues.
“These issues are also the same in Zambia, but what was amazing was girls who came out to speak about them. Not waiting for someone to speak for them but getting on stage and doing it themselves,” said Chisakula.
Gibson Chitiga, Plan International Zimbabwe Civil Society Strengthening manager, said:
“What I witnessed today is the ability that we’ve always been suppressing. We think as experts and degreed people we can speak better on behalf of children.
“However, they really know their issues and can communicate them. All we need to do is to give them the platform and the opportunity to speak and we listen,” said Chitiga.
Festival director Raisdon Baya said the 100 Girls 100 Voices has unearthed activists.