What would Nelson Mandela have to say to the world on his birthday in 2020? There is the challenge of a global pandemic and the opportunity represented by people worldwide standing up for racial justice. As far as the pandemic, he would tell us not to lose hope. And, regarding racial inequities, he would say “keep up the hard work, world citizens.”
The point of celebrating Mandela Day each year is to encourage everyone to be active citizens in their communities. In honor of Mandela Day this year, we invited Binti Shupavu Project Manager, Chausiku Mkuya to share her thoughts about serving her community.
I had the opportunity to become an extrovert at a young age, even without realizing it. I was raised by my aunt and uncle in an extended family where our where our house was full of people and we barely had time to be alone. I learned how to live with people of different personalities, to share almost everything, to sympathize, to value teamwork, and to forgive others easily. There were a lot of girls in the house, but unlike most households in Tanzania, duties were divided equally between boys and girls.
Our guardians were university graduates (the first in their families) and prioritized education for all of us. My uncle was an engineer, working in different districts around the country, and my aunt was a nurse in a military hospital. She would always remind us that if it weren’t for her and my uncle being educated, our lives would have been so different. I was the top female graduate from lower secondary school – I didn’t ever want to disappoint her.
When I started high school, I found it easy to adjust to the boarding school environment with many people because it was like life at home. One time, we wrote stories of TV dramas we watched when we were kids. I described a movie from 1992 I loved watching over and over again called “Sarafina!” I couldn’t speak English well back then and it actually helped me improve my English. The story is about a young black South African girl during the apartheid period. In June, 1976, when the government declared that Afrikaans will be the official language in her school in Soweto, she joined the protest with her fellow students. Up until this time, she had been silent in her opposition to her country’s racist government.
I loved this movie because of the hero in the movie, Sarafina, and the way she acted like Nelson Mandela. Mandela fought for the abolishment of the apartheid system and equality among blacks and whites and was imprisoned for 27 years. He is among those African heroes who will be remembered until the end of the world.
At Arusha Secondary School, I joined the inaugural class of Scholars in the Kisa Project. One of the lessons we discussed was “Mandela’s Leadership Principles.” At the end of that lesson, we were asked to come up with our personal leadership principles as we prepared to become visionary leaders. I found myself rewriting Mandela’s principles in my own words. I became a Kisa Mentor and later a Manager for another Girls Livelihood and Mentoring Initiative (GLAMI) program, Binti Shupavu, and we continue to teach the lesson on Mandela’s Leadership Principles ten years later. It is definitely one of the Scholars’ favorites!
One of the most important things I learned from Nelson Mandela is that it takes passion and commitment to give back to others – and it starts with just an individual. My guardians raised us with an expectation that, once we become successful, we are obligated to help others – both in and outside of our family. Now that I have my own family, I still live with other relatives and they look up to me. I support them with their education and other necessities.
Once a girl is educated, she has the ability to change her community. In the Kisa Project, there is an expectation that participants will give back to their communities. It is the essence of being a visionary leader and part of GLAMI’s core values. We all can’t be President, or make remarkable changes in the country, but it only takes a single act of kindness to help those in need. It is a choice we can make every day. I am honored to be part of a leading organization in global girls’ education. We are building a legacy by teaching young women to be visionary leaders in their communities.
One day, I wish to become a Member of Parliament. Knowing the importance of giving back to others, to my community, and to my entire country is my super power!
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.
Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative (GLAMI) is AfricAid’s program implementation partner in Tanzania.
Chiku, you, the other program staff, and the over 10,000 Tanzanian girls that GLAMI has mentored these last ten years – you are ALL Mandela’s legacy!