Tuko Pamoja! We are together!
“Msichana hodari ninajitambua, ninajiamini nina ndoto kubwa.
Msichana onesha uwezo wako.”
“A strong girl, I know myself, I believe in myself, I have big dreams.
Girl, show your strength.”
This was the chorus of the weekend for Grumeti Fund’s Community Outreach Program (COP) girls’ empowerment sessions. Over 1600 Secondary School girls from Bunda and Serengeti districts convened to discuss challenges hindering girls’ access to education and gain the tools to face and overcome them. Women from a myriad of professions came together to impart knowledge on reproductive health, menstrual hygiene, the importance of solidarity among girls, how to succeed in education and career development. All in hopes that these girls will come out of these sessions, empowered and determined to succeed in life.
The motto for these sessions is “Tuko Pamoja” which means, we are together. The women who organize these sessions really embody that spirit of togetherness and are inspirational role models for the girls. They come from different organizations but are united in their desire to inspire young girls to stay the course and get an education.
Frida Mollel, Head of COP at Grumeti Fund, said “[girls] have to know the circumstances hindering their success in order to face them. Compared to their male counterparts, many challenges stand between them and education; early marriages, teenage pregnancies, FGM. But we want them to know that being a girl is not bad luck or crippling. You can be a girl and do great things in this world.”
Frida’s sentiments were echoed in the keynote speech by Rebeca Gyumi. Rebeca urged the girls not to be defined by their circumstances, and to be confident and assert their rights, especially their right to education. She told the girls that the changes they seek shall come from them. [They] should refuse to be part of the statistics of women who are mutilated or married at an early age.
Rebeca’s own work and life story typify her advise. She is a lawyer by profession and her organization, Msichana Initiative, is at the forefront of advocating for girls’ rights in Tanzania. She believes that our society’s perspective of a girl child needs to change, and parents need to realize their role in catalysing children success. She said, “A child’s potential is reached by building their knowledge and competence, and that can only be achieved through education. So, parents need to be the biggest champions of education.”
To further inspire and support girls to stay their course, Rhobi Samweli, Founder and Director of Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania, shared her personal story. She was mutilated at a young age and grew up to establish a Safe House for young girls fleeing FGM in Mara region. At the end of her speech, the girls joined Rhobi in saying no to FGM with the war cry, “ukeketaji basi.” Later Mary Mwakyusa, a reproductive health specialist at Jhpiego, spoke to the girls about reproductive health and menstruation hygiene.
At the end of the sessions, the Grumeti Fund gave each girl a year’s supply of reusable pads. Ms Teddy, a teacher at Manchira Secondary School, expressed how this contribution will improve girls’ retention because more girls will feel comfortable and confident to attend school.
In agreement, Asteria, a student at Ikoma secondary school, said that “When a girl doesn’t have sanitary towels, it really affects her confidence. She can stop showing up to classes, which affects her academic success, and then she does not reach her dreams.”
When asked to share their takeaways from the sessions, Joanitha, a student from Sazira Secondary School, said that this was an excellent platform for girls “to share ideas, inspire and empower each other, and do activities together.” Joanitha also said she cannot wait to share her learnings with other girls so that they can also be inspired to reach their dreams. Pauline, a fellow student from Issenye Secondary School, added that “girls can continue to show respect in their communities while also standing up for their rights.”
Around the world, the next generation of girls are determined to speak up against injustices and are amplifying each other’s voices in their cry for justice. They are spreading a message of confidence and solidarity in achieving equality, despite several challenges along the way. How are you united in this course? Share your tuko pamoja (we are together) moment by tagging @grumetifund #tukopamoja #girlpower.