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It can be difficult to be a girl in a man’s world.
Not so for Soweto resident Nqobile Radebe. And it’s precisely her fearless outlook on life that clinched her a part in a CNN international documentary series titled A Girl’s World.
The series, which delves into the lives of seven 16-year-old girls from seven countries - Argentina, Germany, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa, the UK and the US - offers viewers an insight into the prospects and different challenges the girls face.
The girls are followed by a camera crew and equipped with handheld cameras and their stories reveal hopes, dreams and obstacles.
The experience has been terrifying yet exciting, says Nqobile, a Grade 10 pupil at the National School of the Arts.
“It was overwhelming. But I’m grateful.”
Leonie Elliott, CNN International’s Joburg producer of A Girl’s World, says she looked for someone who could bear the immense task of representing South Africa’s girls.
“When a contact from South African Mzansi Ballet described Nqobile, I knew that she was the right girl for the task.” She was struck by Nqobile’s personality.
“Nqobile’s passion, enthusiasm, childlike innocence and zest for life stood out from the start and that’s why I chose her in particular. She’s a colourful person.”
Nqobile represented the majority of teenage girls, she said.
“In a country as diverse as South Africa, this is not an easy statement to make, yet I felt that teenage girls from around the country would identify with Nqobile in one way or another.
“It might not be in terms of race, class or socio-economic conditions, but perhaps on a more ideological and philosophical level.”
Elliot found Nqobile’s “no-fear outlook on life and her future” refreshing.
“Growing up in Soweto, she is aware of South Africa’s apartheid past but won’t let it hold her back. Nqobile is confident she can do what she wants in life, no matter the obstacles.”
Elliot was fascinated by Nqobile’s boldness to speak her mind. “She doesn’t censor herself and she’s definitely not afraid to express her opinion. She shares the most idiosyncratic statements with the camera and she laughs… a lot.”
Elliot says Nqobile’s outlook on life is simple - “have fun and don’t take things too seriously”.
“The future is looking bright for her. She loves her family to bits. She’s comfortable in her city and in Soweto.”
The documentary, says the teen, has made her appreciate her life and family more.
She hopes to become more involved in the community development of women and children. She dreams of becoming a part-time dancer - “it makes me feel free” - and a radio personality. But her goal is to be a lawyer.
“I want to be a voice for the voiceless, to make sure that women and children get justice. Advocate Nqobile Radebe… I can’t wait.”
As a Christian, religion is a huge factor in her life. Her mother Deborah - “a woman of prayer and faith” - is her role model. “She is selfless and always likes to help where she can, she is a kind-hearted person. If the world can have more people like her no child will lack.”
Education, for Nqobile, is crucial. She says it determines who you want to be in the future. She says some people have belittled her ambitions, but she’s determined to prove them wrong.
As a girl in this country, there are pertinent issues that worry her - teenage pregnancy, poverty, HIV and Aids, corruption, drug abuse and crime. Most teenagers in rural areas, she says, don’t have access to services and information. “I’d like to see poverty alleviated, to see all kids educated, I would like to live in a zero percent crime country.”
Nqobile believes there are good things about being a girl in South Africa and living in an era of modern conveniences.
“We are the born-free generation. My mom always says that we are the microwave generation. We are fast. We have e-mail, Facebook - unlike the other generations that had to fight for everything.” - Saturday Star
For more information on A Girl’s World, see www.cnn.com.