While children try to find their own voices, it is their teachers who are quietly observing them and creating a space for them to grow into themselves. Malawian-born educator Mtheto Hara knows that a central theme for International Day of the Girl is encouraging students who feel marginalized to be more confident.

Mtheto is planning a “ ‘Girl Rising’ Talent Showdown” in Kenya for Malawian girls. The creative collaboration will feature singers, rappers, dancers, and poets, like himself. As he schedules meetings with the Malawi Embassy and works towards making the talent show free so more people will be eager to attend, he recalls previous events where girls did not perform. The girls were intimidated by the boys, opting to dress up and be ornaments in the audience instead of participating. This time, the boys will still be allowed on stage, but it will only be the girls who are eligible to receive prizes. Mtheto already has three female students on his planning committee: Aurama Ng'oma, Irene Ngwira, and Priscilla Chipao.

Connecting the arts to education is one of Mr. Hara’s lifelong passions. “I realized that it’s not that kids are not interested in education, it’s that they don’t have a fun way to learn about things.”

It’s been written that beyond the titles and trophies of a talent show lies an experience that transforms the way you see yourself. And as Mtheto’s poems suggest: The world is in your hands to shape it as your destiny/ Everything is possible just visualize and aim to be/ Anything you want to be each moment is an opportunity/ To exhibit your dreams in the gallery of reality.

He will read more of his work at the talent show and he also intends to show the “Girl Rising” trailer. His impact goal is to have the 100 expected attendees learn about the power of girls' education. After he fuels the movement, he wants them to find local opportunities to create impact with similar events at their school campuses.

“Those of us who will be at this event range within middle to middle-upper class social status and therefore we have fairly good and comfortable access to education and other opportunities. That’s why we are able to study and work in Kenya. But back home, in rural areas, our fellow Malawians don’t always have these opportunities so I am hoping this event will inspire people to think about those back in Malawi who could use our help and support.”

Update: Mtheto describes his event as “awesome and very enlightening”: Most outstanding element from the event was the discussion among university students from Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Zambia on factors inhibiting girls education in sub Saharan Africa. We will have future events where we want to actually have a direct impact on the lives of girls in rural areas. We will probably have our next event around International Women’s Day.