Let Girls Lead Video Contest: Hellen Kasiya

Hellen Kasiya, 14 -- Lilongwe, Malawi

Adolescent girls in Malawi face a variety of challenges that make it very difficult for them to finish school. The most daunting obstacles to completing their education are economic hardship or early and forced marriage. When girls do have the opportunity to go to school, they take it -- even though it may come at a price. In this video submission from Lilongwe, Malawi, Hellen recounts the challenges she faces at school, including sexual advances by students and teachers alike, as well as intense and often oppressive peer pressure by her friends to seek out relationships with older men. The Adolescent Girls Advocacy Network, funded by the Adolescent Girls' Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI), provides workshops to girls helping them build their self-esteem and teaching them about their rights. Hellen participated in a girls' leadership training program that taught her how to say no to peer pressure, to value herself first and foremost, and to follow her dream of finishing her education. Empowered with the knowledge that she can make her own decisions for her future, Hellen calls on other girls in Malawi to do the same.

Hellen's Story: My name is Hellen Kasiya. I am 14 years old. I am from Lilongwe in the central region, and I have written standard eight exams waiting for form one. Some of the problems I face as an adolescent girl are that at school, boys threaten to beat us up when we have refused to go out with them, so we just accept. Even the teachers ask us out and when you report to the head teacher they end up making you fail assignments when you have passed.

At home, some of the problems are peer pressure. If some of my friends have boyfriends they force me to have a boyfriend so that I should fit in the group. Some of the boys are even too old for me, but I end up accepting just to be part of the group otherwise I would end up not having any friends. The AGANET workshop has helped me realize that I should have high self-esteem and rely on my own instincts, which will help me deal with peer pressure.

Let Girls Lead is building a global movement to empower girls and their allies to lead social change through advocacy, education, economic empowerment, storytelling and strategic partnerships. Let Girls Lead's vision is that girls have the power to transform their own lives, families, communities and the world. Let Girls Lead has improved the education, health and livelihoods of over one million girls globally.

Let Girls Lead's Global Girls' Conversation video contest highlights girls' power to create change by sharing their own solutions through short videos. The video contest is an exciting opportunity for girls, organizations working with girls and girls' allies to submit one to two-minute videos capturing girls' solutions and successes. In partnership with The Huffington Post, Let Girls Lead will feature these compelling videos on the Global Girls' Conversation interactive platform and on Huffington Post's Global Motherhood column, sharing girls' power to lead change with a global audience. Contest winners will receive $10,000 in cash, equipment and training to create their own short films. For more information, please visit here.