One is the stigma which comes along with early pregnancies. Until recently, government schools were barred from enrolling young mothers in the regions that we operate in. Even with the recent reforms, school directors are reluctant to take young mothers back into the schools on fears that the girls might set “bad examples” for their peers. Therefore we see an essential need in talking about health and contraception in particular as well as women’s rights in general within the broader community.
Secondly, the students who make it into schools are faced with a prohibitive language barrier. Thee secondary school system in Tanzania is completely in English, while primary school is in Swahili. Students typically do not get adequate English lessons as a preparation during primary school and teachers are often unable to fully comprehend some of the content themselves. We recognize that this is a significant structural barrier to broader participation in the secondary school system. Therefore we have focused on providing English language support to our students in order to enable them to succeed within their local and formal school systems.
In developing countries, more than 77 million children ages 6 to 12 are out of school, and 57% of them are girls. Meanwhile, over 150 million children in the developing world start school but do not complete five years, the minimum required for basic literacy. We aim to directly address the devaluation of girls’ education in Tanzania. With the Tanzanian national poverty rate at around 40%, it is difficult to imagine the lives of the millions of girls who are denied access to schooling. In this way, we hope to improve the perceptions of the Ifakaran community towards its women.
Our mission is to assist girls, who face both gender-based and economic injustices, in realizing their potential and living dignified and self-reliant lives. We are focusing particularly on providing education, re-establishing self-confidence and enabling empowerment in young women and young mothers, many of whom are forced with stigmatization in their community, and even within their families.
Education breeds empowerment. By educating young women and helping them establish a feeling of self-worth, we hope to reduce the number of girls that are marginalized and degraded in the Tanzanian society. Our education programs inspire girls to take leading roles in politics, economics, mathematics and the arts. Our students have already become voices for African women who do not have the privilege or the capacity to speak for themselves. Our goal is to educate women who are not afraid to think outside of the box and to create positive change for themselves and for their communities.