Chiku’s Can-Do Spirit Creates Ripples
We cannot think of a more perfect example of the ripple effect that results from AfricAid’s model of mentoring than Chausiku Mkuya.
Chiku, as she is affectionately known by friends and co-workers, has benefitted greatly from being mentored. In turn, she has mentored many others. A member of the very first class of Kisa Scholars at Arusha Secondary School in 2010, she returned to AfricAid after earning her university degree as a role model to Scholars and fellow staffers in her positions as Kisa Mentor and Binti Shupavu Program Manager.
Get to know our charismatic Chiku, those who have influenced her, and those she has impacted, in this interview. These wonderful connections can come about when an opportunity to learn to be a leader is extended to just one person.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood and family.
I was raised by my uncle (from my father’s side) and his wife in Dar es Salaam, from the time I was in primary school (4th grade) until I graduated from university. My parents did not stay together as far as I remember, although I met them sometimes during school breaks. My mom couldn’t raise me because she was in poor health and I was adversely affected seeing my mother suffering. That is when my uncle and his wife took the responsibility of raising me.
How did you learn about the opportunity with AfricAid? What was your experience like as a Kisa Scholar?
When I joined high school (Form Five), the Kisa Mentors at that time Madam Tina and Madam Hellen came to our school and introduced AfricAid and the Kisa Project to us. They said the leadership training would help us to be future leaders of both ourselves and our communities. They spoke about public speaking and that captured my interest. I was intelligent, yes, but I really couldn’t express myself in front of people. Through Kisa trainings, I was able to learn many new things that made it possible for me to accomplish my goals, such as public speaking.
How did your Mentor influence your life?
I met Anande Nnko for the first time eight years ago in June 2010. I was inspired by the way she dressed – she was wearing black trousers and a grey blouse and she looked very smart. She was invited to speak to us about university life during a special one-week session we did during school break. I immediately decided I really wanted to get to know her more. Fortunately, a few months later Anande started to work as our Mentor in the Kisa Project! Every time I saw Anande, I would picture myself like her in few years to come. Apart from the topics we were discussing in class, Anande used to encourage us how we could continue on to university and a career like her.
During that time, the only thing I could think of was what I would do next after graduating from high school – and that was going to university. I did not know what to expect when I got there though. Anande created a roadmap for me on what to expect at university and what I was supposed to do when I got there. (Scroll to the bottom of the blog to read Anande’s impressions of Chiku!)
How did having a Kisa Sponsor encourage you?
I used to communicate with my sponsors (Anne and Dan) twice a month through the Kisa web page. I was always very happy when I saw there was a message from them in my inbox. Dan and Anne steadily encouraged me to work hard in school and told me how happy they would be to see my dreams come true. (Scroll to the bottom to see what Anne and Dan have to say about Chiku today!)
Tell us about one of your favorite memories from Kisa.
A few months after we joined Kisa, we had one-week internship and the memory of it will always stay with me. During that time, I was exposed to different things that I did not know before… it was my first time to know about Facebook and YouTube, the first time to share my story with other girls, the first time to think about the challenges in our communities and how we could be part of solution. We got to know each other better and we started treating each other like sisters.
Will you share about a challenge you had to overcome?
When I was in Form Three, we moved with my uncle to a different house that was very far from my school. That was the time I experienced the greatest hardship of education. I used to take four buses in the morning to get to school and five buses in the evening to get back home. Evening was especially hard because of the traffic jams and it could take me three to four hours to get home. I used to get home around 8 to 9pm! That motivated me to work extra hard in school so that I would earn high marks and be selected for a good boarding school. I performed strongly academically and did have the opportunity to go to boarding school for my high school studies.
How do you feel about being part of the very first Kisa class and what the program has become today?
I feel very proud of being in the first group of Kisa Scholars. There were only 22 of us back then! And over 1,700 today! (There are over 4,300 if Binti Shupavu Scholars are included.) I always feel confident speaking about how the Kisa Project has grown since the program started. This means we have more girls who will be accomplishing their dreams and we understand as women we can be part of solutions to the challenges facing our communities. We now have Kisa members (Alumnae and Scholars) in almost every part of Tanzania. I see a bright future for our country with so many Kisa graduates doing big things. And I am one of them!
Chiku’s Career with AfricAid
Why did you decide to come back and work with AfricAid as a Mentor?
The main reason I wanted to join the organization as a Mentor is because I wanted to share my story with other girls. So many girls in Tanzania come from backgrounds where girls do not matter. They do matter! I wanted to be part of other girls’ success stories because I always appreciated the support my own Kisa Mentors offered me. I wanted to give back to many other girls in our country.
How is working as a Binti Shupavu Manager different from being a Kisa Mentor?
From being supervised to having four people to supervise has been a great professional accomplishment for me. I really do not have enough time to get to know the Binti Shupavu Scholars individually as I did to the Kisa Scholars. The Binti girls are younger so I have to adjust the way I communicate with them, using simpler language for them to understand. They like games and listening to stories so when I have time I do share my story to inspire them.
What was Fides Zakayo like as a Kisa Scholar?
Fides was a Head Girl at Enaboishu Secondary School and I could see the strong leader she was even back then in our Kisa classes. Fides is a great listener and a thoughtful speaker, speaking last and choosing her words carefully. She made such a contribution to our discussions by always listening to other people’s ideas first. (Read about Fides’ journey to becoming one of the first female class presidents at her university and scroll to the bottom to see Fides’ glowing feedback about her Mentor Chiku.)
How has your relationship with Theresia Stephen changed from being her Mentor to now being her Manager?
I am so proud of the woman Theresia is becoming. I always give my mentees the option of what to call me as a way of building a strong relationship with them – some of them call me madam, others sister or aunt and some even call me mama. Theresia has been calling me “mama” since I started mentoring her class and she used to come to me and ask for advice. As a manager, I did not have the extra challenge of getting to know her. It has been easy for me to assign her tasks, since she has been working for AfricAid for two years now. I would say our relationship has even grown stronger since she still has that safe space to share whenever she needs to. (Read about Theresia’s favorite lesson to teach her Binti Shupavu Scholars and scroll to the bottom to see Theresia’s kind words about her boss.)
Now that you are a mom, what are your dreams for your daughter?
I love my daughter so much and I want her to have the best in life! If it wasn’t for the education and supportive environment that I had while I was growing up, I would not be where I am today. I want her to get the very best education that I can afford. I want her to know she has me, I want her to be confident, and I want to her know girls are capable of doing great things in the world.
What’s next? What does your future hold?
The experience I got from participating in the Kisa Project established in me the strong desire to give back to my community. It gave me confidence to know that I have power to make a difference. The additional work experience I got at AfricAid has given me many ways to make that possible. My plan is to become a member of Parliament representing my home community. I want to show people in my community that educating girls can bring quick and positive changes in the community and to the country at large.
AfricAid mentors secondary school girls in Tanzania to complete their education, develop into confident leaders, and transform their own lives and their communities. We equip girls to overcome challenges and reach their full potential because educated girls create lasting positive change. The outcome is proactive, resilient, and socially-responsible girls who secure better jobs, raise healthier families and increase the standing of women in society.
YOU can start a ripple, like Chiku’s, by sponsoring a Kisa Scholar!
Contributed by: Alecia McClure, AfricAid Blog Coordinator