This post was originally produced for Forbes.
My holiday weekend (Utah celebrates Pioneer Day today) was interrupted by a tragic yet hopeful message. One of the past guests for my show, Nissan Bahar, sent me a video his team recorded haphazardly of a group of young girls in Zambia poetically begging for society to value their virginity.
In Zambia, Bahar says, men commonly believe—or at least claim to believe—that having sex with a virgin will cure their AIDS.
Nine-year-old Sylvia Mulenga wrote a lengthy poem about attitudes her society holds for young girls. She and six of her friends recited the poem from memory for a performance before 700 schoolmates and teachers. Without the benefit of an auditorium, forget having a PA system or stage in Kalulushi, the quality of the video can be forgiven. Focus on the message. Click the “cc” button for subtitles if you don’t see them.
Mulenga wrote the poem during a poetry workshop that her school, along with nine others in Zambia participated in with ten schools in the U.K. using Keepod technology. A final piece of the workshop was a performance of a Shakespearean play via skype for the UK partner school, according to Bahar.
The poem and the strength with which it is delivered can only be described as Malalaesque.
Bahar describes the event where the poem was performed, “At the last day of the Keepod project, the kids did for us a very exciting goodbye ceremony/party. The situation is practically 3-4 people from the project team on one side (behind the camera) and the entire school in front. They started a 30 min ceremony of songs and speeches. Then these girls came to the centre and blew our mind.”
The power of the message is evident. As the recording begins, laughing, joking and giggling can be heard in the background, almost overwhelming the recording. Nearly halfway into the video, the girls powerfully insist, “Please society, my virginity has nothing to do with either your work or your health! Defile a virgin like me is a man’s misconception and a shame to society.” The audience is virtually silent for the balance of the five minute performance until it erupts in applause of approval.
According to Bahar, the girls attend the Mitobo Girls’ School in a semi-rural, low income neighborhood. “woman empowerment is a getting strong attention,” he says.
The school is working to raise money to buy 700 Keepods from Bahar’s social venture, one for each student. The Keepods are small thumb drives with an operating system that allows them to run a small computer connected to the internet. By removing the drives from old netbooks, Bahar affordably gives each child in the school her own computer. You can learn more about the campaign here.
For less than $14,000, Keepod will connect the school to the Internet, provide every student with a keepod and every classroom with a computer, including doing the implementation. The potential of these girls to change the world with their technology is readily apparent in the video.