SECONDARY school girls living in 21 rural villages near Ikorongo and Grumeti game reserves in Serengeti and Bunda districts, Mara Region have a reason to smile.
The girls are benefiting from a special school empowerment initiative started by Grumeti Fund, a non- profit making organization that supports conservation and community development activities in Western Serengeti.
Under the initiative, the girls are inspired to have confidence, big dreams and are taught the effects of harmful culture which can shorten their studies.
School girls in the region are still prone to forced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and child marriages. Thus, the beneficiaries see the empowerment programme as imperative in enabling them achieve their academic dreams.
Devotha Fabian, a student at Sizaki secondary school in Bunda District describes FGM as outdated, harmful and useless practice that should be wiped out.
She made the remarks after attending girl’s empowerment session organised and hosted by Grumeti Fund on Saturday and Sunday last week (March 9-10). “ I have been motivated and the sessions have been extremely useful.
From today we are going to campaign against FGM because it is a bad tradition. On her side, Jesca Alphonce in Serengeti District also termed FGM as one of outdated cultures still being practiced in Mara Region.
“We would like the empowerment sessions to continue with more focus on rural areas where most of the victims who are girls live”, Jesca, a Form IV student at Rigicha Secondary School told the ‘Daily News’.
Jesca, Devotha and many other female students interviewed also wanted discrimination of girl child when it comes to education to stop.
Over 1,000 girls from several secondary schools of Serengeti and Bunda districts attended the latest empowerment session organised by Grumeti Fund. Schools whose girls benefited are Rigicha, Robanda, Issenye and and Nagusi in Serengeti District.
Others are Sizaki and Kunzugu in Bunda District. Education progression and career development are some of the topics emphasized during the girl’s empowerment sessions.
The sessions further provide a golden opportunity for the girls to meet role model women who inspire them to have confidence and big dreams.
This time around, Kisarawe District Commissioner (DC), Ms Jokate Mwegelo was invited to speak to the female students.
The DC welcomed the girl’s empowerment initiative saying it would open up the minds of female students in the areas and eventually enable them to have significant contribution for the national development.
“These girls have shared with me about their talents and I have seen a better Tanzania of tomorrow through them”, Ms Jokate pointed out. As part of her remarks, Ms Mwegelo urged the girls to have confidence and big dreams.
“You need to have confidence and big dreams.
Plus , goals and discipline so that you can have significant contribution in the society,” Ms Jokate told over 500 female students of Sizaki and Kunzugu secondary schools in Bunda District on Saturday. She also spoke almost to a similar number of girls at Rigicha secondary school the following day.
Ms Jokate also urged the girls to reject statements that may discourage them from realising their education dreams. “I have come to Mara Region to present myself as an example for these girls and show them know how I managed to be where I am today.
I have told them that our problem is lack of confidence, we must attempt to do things that will show our value to the world, “ she also remarked shortly after speaking to the school girls.
Ms Jokate is one of the youngest female leaders appointed by President John Magufuli. Ms Frida Mollel , Grumeti Fund’s Community Development Manager said the school girl’s empowerment programme had created a space to inspire the girls so that they can have a bright future.
“We are telling them (school girls) that they are able to have great achievements in life and should never give up”, Ms Frida said.
“The empowerment programme is all about inspiration, education progression, career development and we also are telling the girls to say no to bad traditions that can short cut their studies like FGM and child marriage,’’ she added. Grumeti Fund aims to reach about 3,500 girls between 2017 and 2019, according to Ms Frida.
Grumeti Fund has used the opportunity to donate sanitary pads to the girls. “ We have a budget for the sanitary pads for 2017, 2018 and 2019 after realising that lack of sanitary pads is one of the obstacles for the development of girls education in the villages”, Ms Frida said. “These are special pads that can be used for a fully year.
They are washed and reused and each student has got eight pads “she added. Ms Jokate welcomed the sanitary pads aid to the girls saying that the pads will enable the students to attend classes smoothly.
She said the government of Tanzania has also abolished tax on sanitary pads as part of improving learning environment for school girls across the country.
She said development of education for girls is imperative for development of any society. “Minus the power of girls and women there can be no development in the society”, she said.
The girls also thanked Grumeti Fund for giving them sanitary pads.
“Some of us come from families which cannot afford to buy pads. The pads will now help not to miss classes”, Devotha said.