On a sunny day in Tanzania, a sense of hope is evident as we meet with Pendo and Zainabu, two teenagers from our Empowered Girls program. They beam as they talk about their new self-confidence and their dreams and aspirations for the future.
Empowered Girls is a program in our Women’s Empowerment Initiative that brings educational programs to schools and communities in East Africa. Sessions include contextually appropriate topics such as self-esteem, gender-based violence, and harmful cultural beliefs and practices. Professionals from the community visit the schools to provide lessons in health, women’s rights, leadership and family planning.
Pendo, Zainabu and many of the other girls in the program are familiar with adversity, as they grew up in traditional Tanzanian settings where women are not always given the same opportunities as men.
Zainabu, 14, lost her father at the age of five and struggled for many years with grief. She said getting involved in the Empowered Girls program has made a great impact.
“I would hear other people talk about their families and it made me miss mine” says Zainabu as her eyes start to water. “I felt so sad, but when I come here, they encourage me.”
There is a strong emphasis on the future as well. Pendo, 16, hopes to encourage and empower other girls in their community.
“I am a girl,” says Pendo proudly. “And I have a place in society.”
Pendo loves to sing and is a self-proclaimed bookworm.
Zainabu also has big dreams. She plans on becoming a lawyer someday so she can help educate others on women’s rights. When asked about advice she would give other young women, her answer was simple.
“They can do anything,” Zainabu says. “They have to be proud to be girls.”
This year, we have watched more than 1,200 girls develop this sense of pride through the Empowered Girls program.
“They have a lot of potential,” says Daudi Msseemmaa, Africa field operations director. “And potential is a beautiful thing.”