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    Kate Tells of Life in Gangs on Bogota's Mean Streets

    Kate Tells of Life in Gangs on Bogota's Mean Streets

    Former King’s School Captain Kate Hawker returned to her old school to talk to current pupils about her work to empower young girls to turn their backs on the ever-present gang culture on the streets of Bogota.

     

    Straight A*/A student Kate is currently completing the final year of her degree in Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University. For her year abroad, she travelled to the Colombian capital, volunteering on what was the final year of a three-year Comic Relief funded project ‘I Define Me’ helping girls and young women aged 11 to 28 escape the dangers of drugs misuse and violence associated with gang culture.

     

    Speaking to King’s girls aged 11 - 17, she pointed out that the girls that she had been working with in Bogota were exactly the same as them, except for the location of their birth and the context into which they were born. 

     

    The ‘I Define Me’ project is working to empower 220 girls, of whom 68% are at high risk of becoming involved in gangs and 32% are already part of gangs, with the associated risks of life on the streets, drug misuse, violence and drug trafficking. The project aims to give girls other choices, so that they can walk away from gang culture.

     

    She explained: “I was working in the district of Ciudad Bolívar, which is essentially ‘a mega slum’ on the periphery of Bogota. The project was working with women who describe themselves as ‘mujeres guerreras’ (women warriors) to provide calm, non-judgmental counselling and a range of activities so they could have a choice between hanging out on the streets or instead coming to an English lesson, a football club or a dance class. By giving them choice and allowing the girls to feel like they were in control of their own destiny, rather than being defined by their family’s connections with a particular gang, we were enabling them to turn their backs on gangs and move on to better lives.”

     

    Kate, who is on course for a first-class degree result, has been accepted on the Government’s Teach First Project and will begin her career teaching Modern Foreign Languages in the East End of London in September. Before that, however, she is hoping to return to Ciudad Bolívar in May and to raise money for the project to continue after the Comic Relief funding comes to an end in August. She asked the girls at King’s to be part of a fundraising campaign to continue ground-breaking work being done in Ciudad Bolívar.

     

    She added: “The ‘I Define Me’ project in Colombia is linked with similar female empowerment projects working with girls in gangs in South Africa, London, Manchester and in other countries around the world. There is real transformation being achieved in these cities and it would be brilliant to carry on the excellent work which has been started by the Comic Relief funding.”

     

    Principal of King’s Girls’ Division, Helen Broadley, said: “Kate was a first class student and has become a first class woman and it was a privilege to learn of her work and understand how we might be of help.”

     

     

     

    Kate is pictured with King’s pupils Charlotte Smith, Lily Evans and Sarah Turner.

     

    Kate (far left) with ‘women warriors’ of Bogota on the football pitch.

     

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