Let Girls Lead Video Contest: Grace Mwase, Malawi

Grace Mwase, 15 - Chiradzulo, Malawi

Harmful cultural traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual cleansing are still of grave concern for many girls around the world. This week Let Girls Lead highlights a short yet powerful video submitted by Grace Mwase who is raising her voice to one of the most harmful traditional practices still present in Malawi. Grace is 15 and lives in a rural part of Malawi. Every year, like most girls her age, she is sent off to a camp to participate in a rite of passage ceremony. These ceremonies are used to initiate girls into adulthood. In Grace's village of Godeni, the ceremony includes a practice called kusasa fumbi. The traditional practice forces girls to have sex with an older man in order to "cleanse" them and prepare them for adulthood. When Grace was confronted with this prospect she bravely refused. She knew that she was too young to have sex and that this difficult practice was a barrier to her future. Girls her age are often forced to drop out of school due to early pregnancy. She decided to change her life and the lives of girls in her village so she stood up and said no. Now, Grace visits the camp every year and advises the new inductees of the camp of their right to refuse as well. She believes that by taking the future into their own hands, girls have the power to stop such harmful traditional practices.

Grace's Story: My name is Grace Mwase, I come from Godeni village, T.A (Traditional Authority) Chitera in Chiradzulu district. I am 15 years old. In my community, once a girl reaches puberty, she is sent to initiation camps to undergo initiation ceremony where she is initiated into adulthood. So when I reached puberty, my parents also sent me for the initiation ceremony. Whilst at the initiation camp we were taught various cultural practices which symbolized our transition into adulthood. Once a girl is initiated, she is perceived to be an adult.

One of the cultural practices that is prominent during the initiation ceremony is kusasa fumbi, a sexual cleansing practice where a man is hired to have sex with a girl. When I heard that a man had to sleep with me, I made a decision and refused, because I felt it wasn't right and I am still too young to have sex. From that time, every year I go to the initiation camp, where I advise new initiates to refuse this practice because it is harmful for us and is a barrier to our future. I believe that we girls have the power and ability to stop these harmful cultural practices.

Let Girls Lead empowers girls and their allies to lead social change through advocacy, education, economic empowerment, storytelling and strategic partnerships, contributing to improved health, education and livelihoods for more than 3 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.

There is still time to be part of our contest! Be sure to submit your video before the extended deadline on January 15, 2013. You can find the official entry guidelines and a submission form on our website www.letgirlslead.org.