More than 50 of CODE’s most loyal supporters braved the humidity last week to attend CODE’s annual donor reception - held this year at the beautifully renovated allsaints community space in Sandy Hill. The reception date, Thursday September 8th, was very à propos as it marked the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day and the launch of the new Global Education Monitoring Report.
Scott Walter, CODE’s Executive Director, hosted the evening and paid special tribute to one of CODE’s most generous donors, William “Bill” Burt. Mr. Burt became involved with CODE in 2007 after taking part in its 2007 Seeing is Believing Tour to Ethiopia. Upon his return from that trip, Bill became a devoted and exceptionally generous CODE supporter. His first order of business? To help CODE get engaging books into the hands of young adults. In 2008, The Burt Award for African Literature was launched in Tanzania to recognise excellent, engaging and culturally relevant books. Burt Award programs for three more African countries soon followed. There are now Burt Award programs for Caribbean Literature and, most recently, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature.
Poor health prevented Mr. Burt from receiving the CODE Director’s Award but accepting it on his behalf were dignitaries from three countries in which the Burt Award program has made a tremendous impact -- namely Ms. Ukubi Hanfere Mohammed, First Secretary, public diplomacy of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Paul James Makelele from the Tanzanian High Commission, and Dr. Sulley Gariba –High Commissioner to Ghana.
Other attendees included CODE board member Rosamaria Durand, long-time CODE member and donor, Gwynneth Evans, and Afreenish Yusirah –CODE’s new CODE on Campus representative from Carleton University.
The event was also an opportunity for CODE to acknowledge 25 years of partnership with its UNESCO award-winning partners the Children’s Book Project of Tanzania and Associação Progresso of Mozambique.
The event concluded with the exciting announcement of CODE’s 2017 Seeing is Believing –Ghana tour. His Excellency, Dr. Sulley Gariba, High Commissioner to Ghana, personally extended an invitation to the audience promising participants a very warm welcome to his country. The tour, set to begin on February 15th 2017, will provide participants with the opportunity to visit children and teachers engaged in CODE’s programming in schools in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Today marks World Population Day, created by the United Nations World Population Fund. This day was created to bring attention to world population issues. This year’s theme is focused on the importance of investing in teenage girls globally. Teenage girls, specifically in vulnerable communities, are often marginalized due to their gender and their age. In countries such as Kenya, they are faced with difficult circumstances, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) which can lead to gender based violence, decreased health, lack of education, poverty and low self-worth.
The 2015 first prize winning title of CODE’s Burt Award for African Literature in Kenya, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre tells the story of a young teenage girl's fight to escape from her community’s strong cultural norms: FGM and child marriage. Christopher Okemwa, the author, shares his thoughts:
“I wrote the novella, "Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre", with an aim of empowering the girl-child and to give her the tools with which to change the community’s mindset about her place in society. In the novella, my narrative struggles desperately and eventually succeeds –just as girls do in our community – to enable her to beat all odds and cultural circumstances that surround her. With legislative systems having failed or are unwilling to curb this heinous act, I give her the voice, the effort, and the determination to stop this heinous act herself. The novella simply tells women to stand up and fight for their rights themselves. It is them, and maybe, some descent men, who can reinforce the women’s rights.
Additionally, I am trying to tell the world, especially the anti-FGM campaigners and the donors, that FGM is not just a cut; there is much more to it. There is the trauma, the teasing as you grow up, the fear instilled in one since she is a baby, the horror foretold before hand—all of which contribute to the girl-child’s low-self-esteem, self-doubt and negative personality.”
Clearly, it is through books like Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre that communities can be exposed to the harsh reality that teenage girls must endure. Let World Population Day be the start of educating the world on the struggles that teenage girls face, the dangers of these traditions and the importance of education.