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Awards week reflections

Posted by: Angie on 21 Mar 2016

Elsa Amri is a first-year university student, studying Communication and Media at the University of Leeds. She was born and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Most of her hobbies, such as reading fiction novels and writing, were developed at the high school she attended - The International School of Tanganyika. It is here that Elsa began fostering an interest in development issues, particularly education and girls' rights. During her gap year, she volunteered as an English teacher in Nepal for 2 months and her experience there intensified her desire to make universal primary education a reality within her lifetime. In 2015 Elsa sat on the judging panel for the With and For Girls Awards, deciding on the winners for the Sub-Saharan Africa region. 

Filled with excitement

When I first got the email about attending With and For Girls Award Week in London, I was elated. I had enjoyed my experience interviewing the different organisations back home, in Dar es Salaam, and I was excited about the prospect of meeting the people we had interviewed face-to-face, as well as other inspirational figures fighting for girl-led change. 

Initially, I had declined the offer. I was just starting my first term of university, and being the worrywart I am, was anxious about missing a whole week of classes. However, after a month or so of classes, I still couldn’t come to terms with not attending the event; I wanted to be there and not miss out on the opportunity.

Luckily, Stars' Camille suggested an alternative. Instead of attending the entire week of events, I could come along for one day -the awards ceremony, which is what I did. The only regret I have now is that I could not stay for the entire week!

Time well spent

There are so many wonderful things about the one and a half days I spent in London. One of the best things was meeting the panellists from the other regions. It was easy to forget that whilst we were conducting our interviews in Tanzania, there were also other girls, all over the world, doing the same thing.

Getting a chance to meet some of them was nice. It was the first time I had been in a room full of people of my age, doing this sort of work, and I felt absolutely inspired. Talking to them showed me that it doesn’t matter how young you are, or where you live, you can still do so much for your community.

As a young girl myself, I had often thought that you could only enforce change once you reached a certain age and status, but I was astounded by the people I met, some younger than me, who were willing to risk so much in order to improve their communities.

Talking to them showed me that it doesn’t matter how young you are, or where you live, you can still do so much for your community.

Face to face

Meeting the Award winners was also exciting, especially because our interviews did not always go as smoothly as planned due to connection issues, so I enjoyed being able to speak with them freely, and get a real sense of who they are and what their work is about.

What I also found valuable was being able to speak with the other Award winners from different regions, and learning about the specific issues that they are tackling in their communities. It opened my eyes to the fact that, although each region has its own particular set of issues to deal with, at the end of the day, what we have in common is that we’re all passionate about making the world a better place for young girls everywhere.

Building strengths

I also enjoyed the workshops that I attended, in particular the public speaking workshop hosted by Speakers Trust (which, I can confidently admit, improved my self-confidence significantly). I have always disliked speaking in front of large audiences because I was afraid of forgetting my lines or stumbling over my words. However, this training has changed my entire perception of what public speaking is. It has given me the tools to be confident in what I'm saying, and once I had mastered that, the fear began to ebb away. At university, I'm the course representative so there are several times when I'll be expected to speak, not just in front of students, but also in front of teaching staff. Now that I know how to speak confidently, those moments no longer scare me. I’m thankful to our workshop leader, to the With and For Girls Collective, and to all the panelists and Award winners who made my one day experience during Awards Week one that I will never forget!