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September 14, 2022

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“Breaking boundaries” – The value of education and changing stereotypes through volunteering

IFSEC Global speaks to security professional, Hannah Zemzam, Event Marketing Manager from Hikvision, as she shares her experience of her two-and-a-half-week trip to Zambia for volunteering programme African Impact, and its goal to break poverty through education.

Hannah specifically helped teach groups of women business skills, teamwork and the importance of setting goals and objectives, creating plans and methods to achieve their goals.

Hannah leads a class as part of the Girl Empowerment project

Hannah explains: “I was on the Girl Empowerment project, and I travelled to Zambia to help the community, with the overarching aim for it to become self-sustainable. This is achieved in various ways, whether it be through practical support or educational discussions and presentations. Teaching girls and women about the concept of equal rights, equal opportunities – this was a big focus, explaining to them that they’re more than capable of doing jobs that have traditionally been viewed as only for the ‘male domain’.”

Hannah stressed the importance of being able to teach them this message whilst young – helping to feed into their mindset of the future and how they view themselves as women and as girls.

“Breaking boundaries”

Hannah details the trip: “I stayed in a hostel with several volunteers and there were other projects happening as well as the Girl Empowerment one – for example there were projects directed towards medical, teaching and eco-building”.

As someone coming from the UK she notes: “There’s a value that our own experiences can add. We’re lucky enough to have relatively easy access to education in our society, but we can try and pass on some of our learnings and experiences to those who may not have access to the same opportunities.”

She emphasised that what may be ‘normal’ in our society, such as male chefs or female business professionals isn’t normal in others, “it’s about breaking those boundaries”, she says.

There is also support for women who may be suffering from physical or mental abuse. “The classes are an outlet for them to be able to talk through issues that they may not otherwise feel safe in doing so.”

Education and empowerment

An important part of empowering the community also centred on educating young men in the village about historical gender roles and breaking the stigma by “understanding stereotypes, and understanding stigmas”, Hannah explains.

The initiative from African Impact is a continuous one, meaning that there is always someone ‘on’ the project. Hannah explains that the classes are ongoing for people to be continuously taught and learn – “the projects have been running for a long time and have seen some really positive outcomes. For example, in the young girl group, they’ve managed to half teen pregnancy.”

Hannah says that she would really encourage people to try volunteering at some point in their career. “I was lucky enough to be supported by the company to dedicate some time to this, and who also supplied water bottles, pens and various other items to the project. There are so many different ways you can help. It’s something that I think every company should support their employees and colleagues to do at some point. You’re going to really help people and change their lives.”

Find out more about the African Impact initiative, here.

 

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