The Big Sister Conversation aimed at uplifting rural teenage girls

The Big Sister Conversation is an intergenerational conversing project focused on rural teenage girls.

We sat down with the founder of The Big Sister Conversation, Rebecca Phala to let us know more about the intergenerational project.

Tenacity Magazine: Please tell us what The Big Sister Conversation is and how it came about?

Rebecca Phala: The big sister conversation is an intergenerational project founded by Rebecca Phala focused on championing rural teenage dreams through sleepover events, school holiday camps, mentorship, career orienteering and body positivity.

The conceiving of The Big sister conversation came to me after I realised the lack of communication on puberty body changes that I was experiencing, what subjects I should prioritise in school in accordance with my dreams, the lack of opportunities for one to be exposed to various careers especially media and law two fields I found fascinating as a rural girl.

I grew up with my eldest siblings in Ga-Mamabolo when my parents were in Gauteng and what that meant was there was a lack of genuine transparent conversing between my eldest siblings and I and when the parents were present there was never enough time to talk through it all.

In the early 2018, I came up with the naming #TheBigSisterConversation to bridge the gap of talking adulating mostly for village teenagers and those around them. After I moved to a boarding school in Marobathota I learned that there is a need to know about the importance of finding solace and comfort if fellow females who turned from friends to sisters. The biggest factor about the big sister conversation is that we understand the beauty that comes from a friendship turned sisterhood and the beauty that comes it.

Tenacity Magazine: How many teenage girls does The Big Sister Conversation consist of?

Rebecca Phala: We currently have an intake of 10 rural girls from villages in the Capricorn Municipality and the Greater Tubatse Municipality and they were attendees of our very first project #TheBigSisterConversation which was hosted on the 29th of September 2018 at one Molopa Guest House in the Polokwane CBD. There are also 5 big sisters who have each adopted two little sisters as their mentees.

Tenacity Magazine: As The Big Sister Conversation you are focused on uplifting rural teenage girls. You can tell us more on this aspect.

Rebecca Phala: The Big sister conversation is focused on village girls because we feel they are the people with the most authentic of talents as has been proven with some of our country’s superstars the likes of Caster Semenya, Cathy Mohlahlana and Lesego Marakalla to name just but a few.

The biggest challenge is that only a certain number of these village individuals get an opportunity to fully execute their skills and talents and they have to move to an urban province like Gauteng before such talents and skills are executed.

As a village girl I know of the power of sisterhood that is formed between village girls when they walk to the mountains to gather woodwork for fire or when they push wheelbarrows and have buckets on their heads to go fetch water from the nearest river.

I want to make sure that culture of sisterhood if preserved and progressed. As the big sister conversation we want to listen to village girls that they can dream of being the biggest business woman, broadcaster or athlete in that very dusty village. As such we want to listen to village girls share their dreams and go on to help them achieve them by showing the right institutions and people to talk to.

Tenacity Magazine: What are the programmes you are doing within this intergenerational conversing project?

Rebecca Phala: Our projects range from Sleepovers, school holidays camps, spelling bee, public speaking and debating competitions, book drives to cultivate a reading culture and  school visits all of these spearheaded by mentoring.

Tenacity Magazine: Tell us about the possibilities that can overcome social challenges. What can citizens do to help rural teenage girls, not only to look at themselves as victims, but looking at the brighter side in life?

Rebecca Phala: People need to stop instilling a belief in village girls that they need to move to urban provinces like Gauteng or to big cities before they can make it as anything. The biggest lawyers for example in South Africa are products of the Universities of Venda and Limpopo. Societies need to stop looking down on rural provinces and the people that come out of them.

It is discouraging and not good for our confidence and self-esteem. We are welcome to donations in the form of books, sanitary pads, and transportation for our trips, accommodation for our camps and sleepovers as well as printing services for our t-shirts given to the village girls for uniformity.

Tenacity Magazine: What have you achieved ever since the inception of The Big Sister Conversation?

Rebecca Phala: Our achievement so far as The Big Sister Conversation is managing to host a successful sleepover session despite backlash we received from potential sponsors who were sceptical of us since it was our first interview. We have also recently began hosting a Twitter chat session on Thursday evenings and this has helped us garner recognition especially from potential sponsors. Which means our upcoming projects will have lessened difficulties.

Tenacity Magazine: What are your future plans with The Big Sister Conversation?

Rebecca Phala: Thinking about future plans for The Big Sister conversation fills me up with optimism. We have plans to open a winter school academy for rural teenagers for both girls and boys, we want to do The Big Brother conversation to bring the rural boy child under our siblinghood projects because we understand side-lining the boy child will not necessarily help us, we want to host more sleepovers, camps and do school visits.

In all of the above mentioned plans, we want to champion rural dreams and force the inclusivity of village teenagers in various progressive spheres.

Tenacity Magazine: What makes The Big Sister Conversation unique from other intergenerational conversing projects?

Rebecca Phala: Our focus on village rural teenagers sets us apart from any other Intergenerational project. The multi-faceted nature of our project which prioritises rural teenagers in areas that include body positivity, career orienteering, academic excellence, literacy and fun filled camp and sleepover over holiday’s activities and not forgetting our school visits make us stand out.

Tenacity Magazine: Any new and exciting things that you would like share?

Rebecca Phala: The exciting upcoming news about The Big sister Conversation project is that we will increase our intake of rural girls from 10 to 20 and we will also introduce The Big Brother Conversation project camp for the winter school holidays for rural teenage boys.

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