Street art for Girl Effect Live

Artists gather in London for Girl Effect Live

In a dark expanse of space, all you can really see is what's just in front of you. Then you hear a girl's voice - she says there is someone behind you: it's a man, and he attacks, dragging her back to his house.

As the screams subside, she tells you: "I will never forget his face. When I got home I wept, my dress was torn and I felt shame. But then I realised the damage he had really done. I was pregnant."

Now in her bedroom, you see her battered single bed, and her few prized possessions, including an old football. She tells you that things got worse after her parents discovered what had happened: "They found him, and now - and this makes no sense to me - I was told I was marrying him. He hurt me and now they wanted me to spend the rest of my life with him." 


This intense experience was part of the immersive theatre staged at the Girl Effect Live festival, held on Brick Lane, London on Sunday 20th July. Throughout the day, issues such as child marriage, education, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual violence were brought to life through artistic creations and sensory, theatrical storytelling across four venues.

By telling these stories through the themes of safety, identity and opportunity, the girl effect was brought to life for visitors such as Alex Duffy, 23: "You hear facts and figures all the time, but experiences like today - here, and at all the other venues - make it mean so much more to me."  

At the Girls Reframed exhibition, focusing on the theme of identity, a young girl smiled down at the crowds, her hand resting on a notebook and a spotlight illuminating her face. An orphan from Ethiopia, Melat's dream is to provide emotional and financial support for other orphans. This huge portrait of Melat, by artist Jimmy C, was one of seven pieces of art created especially for Girl Effect Live, based on stories and quotes from girls all over the world.

In the same space, Hattie Stewart's bright portrait of Deborah, from Brazil, packed a punch in a completely different way, with neon brights and cartoon doodles expressing Deborah's words: "I wish people and the government would have more respect and care for the young. I hope that my family can stay healthy and have the courage to move forward. I wish violence of all kinds would decrease."


In a nearby bar, those attending Girl Effect Live heard some powerful words around the theme of opportunity: 

If we forget how outcast the voice of an outcast is, they'll never be heard. Their words are just noises without answers. See, the fact is, there are no choices without chances. So, in practice, choice is about chances.

George the Poet's Girl Effect Live performance had the audience completely captivated, and it's easy to see why. "I am proud of the piece I presented today," he said, "I think it reflects what the girl effect is all about. My one wish for girls in poverty is to end female genital mutilation, because that's just horrific."

Later, James Massiah's spoken-word performance tackled issues of child marriage and sexual violence in a way that strongly connected girls' experiences to those listening: "For all our sadness, some grew up much faster than those, unfortunate souls forced to marry hurriedly, and rushed, to taste the flesh, the fruits unripe that leave a bitter taste, like alcohol's first sip."

Singer Jessie J added her own forceful words to the growing chorus calling for change for girls during her evening show: 

I decide what I have for breakfast. I decide what I wear. I decide who I love - and not everyone does. Anyone with choice, especially the girls and women here, has the opportunity and responsibility to make sure that everyone gets that choice.

Alice Evans, who watched the performances during the day, explained what it meant to her: "You can think about all of these issues in the abstract, but when you actually hear what those poets are saying about things like FGM you can relate to it."

Watch this video to see more reaction from Girl Effect Live, and the message that the crowd gave to world leaders and campaigners who gathered at the Girl Summit just two days after the festival. 

What's your one wish for girls in poverty? Tell us @girleffect

Were you at Girl Effect Live? Let us know about your day by using#GirlEffectLive.