Radical Joy and Sisterhood: How the Sauti ya Dada Girls Find Their Voices

To Whom They Have Turned Me Into

A Poem by a Sauti ya Dada Mentee


If you meet my mentors

Tell them I am now strong

Tell them I am on my feet

Tell them I am now the girl

They molded me to


If you meet my mentors

Especially Nadia Sarah

Tell her I love her so

Tell her I never had the courage

To hug tight and never let her out of my life

If you meet my mentors tell them what I have learned

To fight back like the wonder woman

They taught me to be

Tell them that I have learned to be passionate

The same way they are to me

If you meet my mentors tell them I miss their hugs

The girl talk

The laughter

The get-together


Adolescence is an in-between space fraught with unique joys and challenges. Neither child nor adult, teenagers, especially teenage girls, require support to grow into empowered adults. Utilizing tools and resources from her three years of experience with Creative Action Institute, Nadia Sarah Baringwa is a mentor with the Sauti ya Dada program helping girls in East Africa feel safe and find joy in being a teenage girl. Nadia does this by emphasizing the importance of creating sisterhood.


Through the bond of sisterhood, Susan has not only found strength and comfort from her Sauti ya Dada safety circle but joy as well.


Many girls in East Africa face significant barriers to their development: gender discrimination, child marriage, lack of sexual and reproductive health rights, and teen pregnancies. Nadia understands the stressors of female adolescence firsthand. Of her own time as a teenage girl she says: “We never got this opportunity for sisterhood, and it made us miss out on so many things as adolescents.”


As a teen, Nadia craved sisterhood; she knew bonding with other girls her age would make her teenage years easier, but she had no way to access it. Despite lacking that support system, Nadia became a fierce human rights activist. She is presently the programs manager at Crown the Woman South Sudan, a Creative Action Institute partner, where she works to combat systemic oppression and gender discrimination in her community. But Nadia brings a unique take on advocacy to Sauti ya Dada that is unlike the tactics she uses with the various community leaders she trains. When working specifically with teen girls, Nadia centers joy so her mentees can combat injustices and find the beauty in being a teenager.


“At this age, the girls are going through lots of changes: physically, emotionally, psychologically -- they need guidance and advice,” Nadia said. She understands that joy and resilience go hand-in-hand in creating empowered teen girls.


Nadia's safety circle is a place for focusing on the serious challenges that adolescent girls face, but also a place for girl talk, laughter, and hugs. It’s in this place of love that the girls can find their voices and enjoy the in-between space.

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