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Women & Girls’ Empowerment

ZET Blog: Rafiki Stories

ZET and Rafiki Girls Centre help around 60 girls each year, providing intensive support and training to offer each and every graduate a second chance into education, employment and opportunity; empowering them to live independently and successfully.

The invaluable support ZET donors have provided to hundreds of women in recent years can be difficult to truly comprehend. Together with Hildah, the director over at Rafiki Girls Centre in Harare, we have collated a few personal stories of ZET supported beneficiaries, and how the training they received thanks to your support and donations transformed their lives.

  1. Everjoy

One such beneficiary is Everyjoy, who has come from great personal difficulty and tragedy, and empowered herself. She has asked us to share her story, so we have done just that.

Everjoy and her brother became orphans at a young age, as both her parents unfortunately died from AIDS. They then moved in with their uncle, but were forced to leave when Everjoy bravely reported him for regularly raping his wife and infecting her with HIV, and he was arrested. She then moved in with an aunt, who sent her brother away to work. Everjoy has not seen him since and was heartbroken by his absence.

This aunt asked Everjoy to get an HIV test, and her life became very difficult when she tested positive. Her aunt did not allow her to sleep in a bed or use the furniture, cook or share utensils with the rest of the family – including a plate, cup, and bath. Not being able to cook made it difficult for her to take her ART medication. Her aunt also stopped paying for her school fees, as she believed Everjoy would die soon and education was a wasted investment. This forced Everjoy to drop out of school and instead, she worked as a maid round the house and for her aunt at the market, told this is how she would pay her way. None of the family respected or cared for her, and she was regularly abused and neglected.

Desperate, she called into a radio show to ask for advice. She was then referred to Rafiki Girls Centre, and lived with the radio show presenter, Dr Makoni, whilst she completed her training. During this time, she slept on a bed for the first time in 8 years and was able to take her medication properly and effectively. Whilst at Rafiki, she received advice and counselling for her positive status and gained the life skills she needed to live independently of her relatives. She worked extremely hard to get onto the exclusive Nurse Aide course, and relished her education in this field.

She finished her training at Rafiki with a qualification in nursing in 2013. Her aunt called her at her graduation, to tell her that now her training was finished, she should come back and work at the market to pay her way. Determined to not return to her former life, Everjoy was helped to find a job by Rafiki and Dr Makoni, who allowed her to stay on at his house until she finds employment and can afford her own place.

Everjoy was so happy to have found a family that accepted her, and looks forward to future where she will be self-reliant. She plans to earn an income so she can pay to sit her O Levels, and then continue her training to become a doctor. She also wishes to track down her brother as soon as she can afford to. She is confident the support and training she received at Rafiki will enable her to transform her life, and is so passionate about this that she wishes to open her own charitable home to help others like Rafiki helped her.

  1. Loveness

Another beneficiary of the important work at Rafiki is Loveness. Loveness comes from a large, polygamous family. However, her mother and sisters are not loved or respected by the rest of the family, as the mother gave birth to girl children only and so are not as desirable or useful to the patriarch, her father. Her father refused to fund her or her sisters’ education and told them they would never make it in life, encouraging them to marry young instead. Loveness wanted to choose education and employment rather than early marriage, but struggled without the funds or support to do so.

When Loveness heard of Rafiki Girls Centre, she seized the opportunity to prove her father wrong and realise her dreams. She was a dedicated student, and excelled in her sewing skills training. Loveness is now training to be an interior designer, and loves education. She has also started a small business using the skills she learnt at Rafiki, sewing items such as aprons and hats, to raise money for her mother and sisters – particularly their school fees. She hopes to show her father, and men like him, that when girls are given the chance they can be the source of change in their families and communities.

 

The following three beneficiaries are new students who joined the centre this summer, so although we are yet to see all the incredible things they will be able to achieve when equipped with second chance education, they do each demonstrate the difficult circumstances many of the students face.

 

  1. Alice

When Alice was only a year old, her father died and her mother ran away. She then lived with her grandparents, until they too passed on, and she was forced to live with relatives she hardly knew. Alice struggled to meet school fees and the relatives she now lived with were also unable to cover these. So, although she took her O Levels, her results were withheld because of her debts to the school. Alice went on to take a job as a housemaid, so she could support herself and gain skills.

Through this role she learnt about Rafiki Girls Centre, who could provide her with the training she needs to empower herself, and gain skills, employment and go onto live independently and successfully. At Rafiki, she plans to specialize in tailoring and go onto work in this area in Harare.

  1. Christwishes

Christwishes is an orphan, who lives with her siblings after both her parents died from AIDS. Her and her oldest sister were forced to drop out of school and sell fruit to raise money for the food and rent for the family. She told staff at Rafiki Girls Centre that her life changed completely and became very difficult once her parents had died.

Christwishes wants to come to Rafiki Girls Centre so that she can learn employable skills, and wishes to specialize in sewing. This will enable her to gain an income-generating job, to not only support her family, but to pay for school fees so they can all go back to schools and complete their O Levels. This is her main wish, and learning skills to live independently and gain employability will enable her to complete her education and empower herself.

  1. Vanessa

Vanessa is an orphan who lives with her siblings and extended family. Tragically, after the death of her parents, her house was attacked by a petrol bomb and some of her siblings and relatives were killed. Vanessa survived, with severe burns.

After this heartbreaking incident, she was forced to miss school for a year while she recovered. Without parents to pay her school fees, and having fallen a year behind, Vanessa was forced to drop out of school. Her greatest desire is to break the cycle of poverty her family is trapped in due to low-paid, low-quality employment, by receiving training in a range of skills and going on to obtain a professional job. She would use the income from this to support her relatives and siblings, after all they have done for her.

It can be difficult to recognize what difference your donations and support are making. It is only by digging a little deeper, and asking these truly inspirational women about their stories and their aspirations, that we can begin to recognize how the opportunities provided at Rafiki Girls Centre really can prove transformational, offering women – and often their families – the opportunity to pursue their dreams and prosper.
Written by Hildah Mahachi and Hannah O’Riordan


ZET Blog: Girl Child Economic Empowerment

Many major obstacles to economic empowerment in the developing world originate from the lack of formal education, patriarchy systems that prioritize the boy child over the girl child, and the devastating effects of HIV & AIDS. The AIDS pandemic has left many households child-headed, with the girl child shouldering most of the work – leaving little opportunity for education or for a girl to choose her own future. The major effect of the patriarchal system in most developing societies is that most parents believe it is not necessary to enroll girls in formal education. This stems from the belief that a girl child’s destiny is marriage – therefore sending her to school is an unnecessary “waste of resources”. Although the government and other organizations have tried to raise awareness on the importance of sending ALL children to school, the enrollment of the girl child remains very low in the most marginalized communities of Zimbabwe. From a very tender age, the girl child is raised to be a mother, to take care of the home and concentrate on household chores.

If, for example, one parent is taken ill, the girl child is expected to miss school to take care of the sick parent. The same is not expected from the boy child. This scenario disadvantages the girl child, who misses school until the parent is better, so then when children are assessed at the end of an academic period, the girls’ grades understandably drop and boys will perform significantly better. Another issue is the lack of proper sanitary ware, for the same reason. Girls are forced to miss school for the duration of their monthly period, and the ultimate result is poorer academic grades. The social environment and harsh conditions under which girls learn makes it difficult for them to succeed academically.

Rafiki Girls Centre was established in 2002 to respond to the challenges young women face which have disadvantaged them from the outset, often leaving them orphaned and vulnerable. Economic empowerment is our main focus. The girls specialize in one of the following courses: hotel & catering, nurse aid (health care assistance) training, cutting & designing, pre-school teacher training, interior design and cosmetology. However, we believe in a holistic approach to a human being’s personal development, hence the inclusion of other life skills such as basic cookery & sewing, grooming & etiquette, First Aid, and lessons in HIV & AIDS. In order to achieve these aims, we run special events to develop these women holistically – such as Careers Days and HIV/AIDS Awareness Workshops.

 

            

Careers Day enlightens students about the many opportunities open to them, including teaching, nursing, health and beauty, hospitality and more. The event addresses negative attitudes held towards certain careers, and encourages the students to be successful in whichever field they choose. This is possible, they learn, as long as they follow their passion and work hard. We often see women who come to Rafiki as timid and apprehensive, leave as confident, competent young women.

The HIV/AIDS Awareness Workshop provides a safe space to share knowledge, provide accurate information, and for people living with a positive status to share their experiences. Following these sessions, our students feel empowered to make wiser choses, negotiate safer sexual practices, and volunteer for HIV testing and corresponding counselling and support.

Rafiki’s aim is to empower girls with the skills needed to alleviate poverty in their homes and the communities where they live. We hope that this training opens opportunities for them, and these girls gain a second chance to enter into education or employment should they so wish. We also hope that by training women to be self-sufficient and confident, they will be less vulnerable to situations which may expose them to HIV or unsafe sex. So far, Rafiki has supported over 700 young women, 85% of which have gone onto further education or employment, and we hope to continue training and tackling gender inequality in the future.

Written by Hildah Mahachi (Director at Rafiki Girls Centre)
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan (Operations Manager at Zimbabwe Educational Trust)

 

If you would like to write for our blog, please contact Hannah O’Riordan on contact@zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk


Rafiki Girls Centre – Beattah’s Success Story

We start by thanking all of you who contributed to Burj’s ultra-marathon which raised £281 for Rafiki Girls Centre. Of course thank you to Burj for completing his epic 36 miles for Rafiki.

Beattah’s success story

Beatrice also known as “Beattah” grew up in Epworth one of the poorest community in Harare. Beattah has three sisters and one brother, and they lived in a three roomed house. Beattah’s father died in 2005 leaving her mother to be the bread winner. Beattah was unable to carry on her schooling, due to lack of funds for school fees. Beattah’s dream is to be an Air Hostess.

In 2006 at the age of 18 years old, Beattah was accepted at Rafiki and successfully completed her 6 months training, including a Beauty therapy course at People’s College. After training Beattah worked at a clinic as a receptionist. Using subjects Beattah had learned at Rafiki, Computers and Business Communication, she applied to do a course in Business Administration with London Chamber of Commerce International Board. Beattah received a Diploma in Business Administration. Beattah later advanced herself in computer skills and did a course in International Council Driver’s License.

Beattah looked for employment but did not get a job.

Beattah decided to pursue her dream. In 2012 Beattah saw an advert in the newspaper which was inviting applications from those who wanted to work as airhostesses or ticketing. Beattah applied to train as an Air hostess with Central Air Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe. When Beattah was finally called for training in 2013 she had no money to pay fees. Rafiki launched a successful appeal to cover her $750 fees. Beattah completed her air hostess training, but did not get a job immediately. So Beattah went to work at a housing estate agent.

Beattah then saw an advert on line from South Africa to study as air hostess. She saved up and redid the air hostess training to give her an advantage to find a job in South Africa. In June 2015 Beattah successfully completed training and was given the license to work as an air hostess. Beattah has since been appointed to work with Ethiopian Airlines starting August 2015.

Beattah’s dream has finally come true at 27 years of age! Beattah’s perseverance and tenacity has certainly motivated other girls.

Thank you for your support to Rafiki – please continue to give generously to help other women like Beattah to realise their dreams.Burj ultra marathon

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