Children in Africa face tremendous challenges of cultural gender discrimination and health issues. There exists disparities in the status and treatment of girls that means that it is far harder for them to realise their potential than boys. Fewer girls enter school and many are forced to leave early which means that they miss an opportunity to socialise and learn essential life skills such as communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. The girl acquires a sense of inferiority which can result in a limited perception of her own capabilities.
Young people, especially girls and young women, regularly face risks that threaten their health and limits their learning opportunities; yet, whilst information helps, it is not enough to enable them to protect themselves from these risks.
Life and health skills based education can help children learn how to manage these challenging situations.
The Sara Communication Initiative (SCI) educates adolescents about the importance of staying in school as well as addressing other issues such as early pregnancy, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS, early marriage, and girls' domestic workload.
All this is skillfully woven into entertaining plots about a cartoon character called Sara and her friends. She acts as a role model and handles difficult situations whilst remaining respectful and therefore important cultural sensitivity is maintained. The stories appeal to boys as well as girls and are popular with the teachers.
Sara life-skills materials
Sara appears in a radio series, animated video and DVD films, comic books, storybooks, audiocassettes, posters and guides.
Unfortunately the Sara Life Skills books are no longer available. however, on a trip to Lusaka a couple of years ago we managed to find a pile in the corner of a warehouse and bought all the available copies. These are still used in our girls' clubs.