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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
pictured with King’s pupils Charlotte Smith, Lily Evans and Sarah Turner.
(far left) with ‘women warriors’ of Bogota on the football pitch.