by Devotha Mlay, Managing Director of Programs for GLAMI and
Jessica Love, Executive Director of AfricAid
In Tanzania, it is common for a girl to grow up believing that she should not ask questions, that being confident and determined is rude, and that she is less important than a boy. As a result, girls are discouraged from attending school or drop out long before they complete their education. The truth is: when girls stay in school, they become socially responsible women who secure better jobs, raise healthier families, and create lasting positive change.
Mentoring and life skills development programs have been shown to improve adolescent social skills, emotional well-being, and behavior – for girls, in particular. That’s why AfricAid and GLAMI (Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative), partner to provide mentoring opportunities to secondary school girls in Tanzania, helping them complete their education, develop into confident leaders, and transform their own lives and their communities.
Aikande Muro is a senior mentor with GLAMI’s Kisa Project, a two-year leadership course for girls in their last two years of secondary school. One of the many girls she has mentored over the years is Charity, who graduated last year from Oshara Secondary School with plans to pursue community development studies in university.
In school, Charity became known for being attentive, responsive and inquisitive. Outside the classroom, she could be found playing sports and games, preparing and decorating for class parties, singing and cooking. But before joining the Kisa Project, she did not always feel confident in using her voice.
“Before having Madame Aikande as my mentor, I stayed with everything in my chest,” Charity shared. “Now that I have a mentor, there are big changes. Changes like improvement in my confidence and self-expression.
“I have learned that getting my voice heard is important. I have grown to be a resilient person and more solution oriented. There are many outstanding things I have learned through my participation in the Kisa Project: good decision making, win-win solutions, social entrepreneurship, budget making, leadership styles, being proactive, and confidence. I am working on implementing them all and seeing the positive differences they can make.”
Charity started a wide range of entrepreneurial ventures to help pay for her school expenses from making snacks, cultural bracelets, rugs, sandals, and decorative doormats. She even forayed into poultry farming – a business she grew from five to 20 chickens!
“When Charity talks about entrepreneurship, her face brightens and she gives you a dazzling smile, showing her big dimples. She is a creative problem solver and is always pursuing new ideas,” said Aikande.
“I want to show other youth how they can engage themselves in entrepreneurial skills and not stay idle,” Charity said.
Through the Kisa Project, Charity had the opportunity to attend a Career Day event, a signature piece of the Kisa curriculum that features motivational speeches by professional women as well as break-out sessions and opportunities to network and learn in small groups. Participating in the Kisa Project also gave Charity the opportunity to design and implement a project that would support her community. Seeing girls like Charity giving back and creating change also helps reinforce to the community the worth and contributions of girls.
Mentoring programs like Kisa Project can be life-changing for girls like Charity. Years of data collected in our programs have shown that girls who participate are more likely to graduate and seek higher education, their rates of pregnancy are far lower (2 percent in our programs vs. 50 percent nationally in Tanzania), and girls are more likely to outperform their peers on standardized tests. But mentors also fill a role that nobody else can. There is no power dynamic at play with a mentor, like one might see between a girl and her parent or relative, or a teacher. Mentors like Aikande are trusted, adult women role models who create a safe, consistent space for girls to seek support, encouragement, and information about health topics that could be considered taboo to bring up to anyone else.
Charity is grateful for Aikande and for all she has learned from her mentor:
“The beautiful things in this life are not far from where we are. It is possible to attain them if we work to get there and get a support system. Aikande has been a very important part of my life; she has guided me through good decision-making and we have exchanged ideas. She listens when I need to talk to her and afterward, I am always relieved and hopeful.”
Photo Credit: AfricAid