Rafiki means friend in Swahili, and that’s exactly what Rafiki Girls Centre is. A friend to disadvantaged girls, offering empowerment and opportunity through education and training. Throughout Zimabwe’s history, the girlchild has been the most vulnerable – under pressure to take on the majority of domestic work and care, often forced into child marriage, pregnancy or labour, and excluded from education.
Due to the economic troubles of the last twenty years, their situation has exacerbated – with girls often dropping out of school, engaging in risky sexual and employment practices, and exposing themselves to HIV and other disease.
Rafiki stood as a friend for these girls, offering support and education that they could use to build and change their lives. Today we have more than 600 graduates, with 85% going onto access further education or training.
For example, Rafiki was a friend to Tinotenda. When she joined the centre, she was a struggling orphan who could not afford her HIV medication. Now she has started her own business to fund her studies.
Rafiki was a friend to Michelle, who used her nursing training at Rafiki to go on and qualify as an ambulance driver and paramedic for Harare Hospital.
It is unclear what the future holds for Zimbabwe, with elections coming up and the economy remaining turbulent. It is clear though, that girls are all too often left behind in development, and for as long as it is needed, Rafiki will be there to be a friend to girls in need.