Stories of Resilience
noun – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Binti Shupavu is a program designed to build essential life skills in Ordinary Level (i.e. grades 7-10) secondary school girls in Tanzania. Over 6,000 girls have experienced this worthwhile extra-curricular course at 22 Partner Schools.
Life skills in general are needed to cope with the demands and challenges of everyday life. One characteristic stands out above all others – resilience. For a girl in Tanzania, resilience is the foundation she needs to stay in and complete school. If she has resilience, other important attributes can be built with a kind Mentor and supportive environment: self-confidence, self-advocacy, self-motivation. All of these will help her and her children have a brighter future.
Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative (GLAMI) has a phenomenal track record in university admissions for young women that graduate from its Advanced Level (grades 11-12) program, the Kisa Project. That course is focused on leadership, public speaking, and community service. (97% of Kisa Scholars enroll in college, vs. a national average for Tanzanian women of about 3%.)
However, the reality for many Binti Shupavu Scholars is that O- Level may be the end of the road for their formal education. Or, their academic performance may not be strong enough for them to attend a quality A- Level school. How does Binti Shupavu help these girls deal with these disappointments and press forward to a productive and fulfilling life? By fostering resilience in each and every one of them.
Another word for resilience is flexibility. Bend, but not break. Bounce back. This is evident in two stories that Binti Shupavu staff have chosen to share. Binti Shupavu has the power to help girls achieve success in many other ways beyond academics.
Mawenzi Secondary School
Binti Shupavu Class of 2020
As told to her Mentor, Lightness Ngoye.
When I received my Form Four results I was a little bit shocked because I didn’t do well in some of my subjects, including mathematics. Right now, I am waiting for my school selections for A-Level and I have applied for scholarships. My dream is still to study Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB). In the meantime, I am at home helping my mother with her business and house chores.
If I had not been in Binti Shupavu, I would have low self-esteem and self-confidence and be unable to interact successfully with other people. I even got up and spoke in front of all the Binti parents at a Parent Engagement Meeting and I think I inspired them.
My participation in Binti has made my school mates, teachers, family, and society in general respect and appreciate me. They have given me the nickname “rock girl.” My mother and father spoke to some of the Mentors in the program and after that, their trust in me grew.
I really enjoyed just being together with my Binti Shupavu family, including my Mentor and my fellow students. My favorite lesson was Health and Wellness. Binti Shupavu also taught us to be aware of and recognize any violence, including sexual discrimination, and how to seek help. The program shows how to set goals and make a plan to reach them.
My Mentor, Esther Naiman, was a good role model to me. She was ready to listen to my problems and ideas I wanted to share with her. She was so friendly that I was able to share with her even my inner issues that I had no one to tell. She is still a good friend of mine.
I think every girl must learn self-love. What I mean by this is not cosmetic, but to appreciate yourself and make it a priority to keep your goals right in front of you.
Langasani Secondary School
Binti Shupavu Class of 2020
As told to her Mentor, Flora Meena.
I was let down with the marks I got on my O-Level exams. I did well with a few subjects, but did not pass others. I really have had to think of many other things in case I am not selected for A-Level. These include joining the Tanzania Military Academy or going to the Vocational Education and Training Authority for an electricity course. Once my brother helps with some start up funds, I also would like to open a business with wholesale crops such as maize, rice, and wheat. Binti Shupavu helped me to be creative, confident, and have courage to try new things.
Before joining Binti Shupavu, I used to spend time chatting with friends, gossiping about others, and discussing things that didn’t benefit us in any way. Now, my friends seek advice from me in different situations. My favorite unit was Health and Wellness, especially menstrual cycle lessons. They gave me a wide understanding about different changes happening in my body, taught me to make a menstruation calendar, cleared up misconceptions I had in my mind, and gave me room to ask questions about anything that was bothering me.
I have stayed in touch with the girls that I shared the Binti class information with and I am glad they are practicing what I taught them. Seeing them overcome different challenges they are facing makes me feel happy. For example, one of them was a house helper and ran away because she was about to be forced into marriage. She has now started a small business elsewhere.
My Binti Shupavu Mentor is like a sister to me. She is always there when I need her help. She keeps my secrets and makes me feel comfortable sharing my battles. My Mentors at GLAMI are the only people who are not laughing at my results. People are mocking me that my efforts at school were a waste of time, but I am still chasing my dreams!
Did you know… Mandatory core subjects for O-Level in Tanzania include mathematics, English, Kiswahili, biology, physics, chemistry, civics, history, geography and religion. These are tested in nationwide exams at the conclusion of four years. Depending on availability at the school, additional subjects may include information and computer studies, higher level math, home economics, music, fine arts, French, Arabic, Islamic Studies, Bible study, and physical education.
Binti Shupavu is a four-year life skills course for lower secondary school girls covering topics such as study skills, personal leadership, health and self-confidence with the goal of increasing graduation rates for vulnerable girls.
This blog is dedicated to Binti Shupavu Mentor Lohi Athumani Bariye. Lohi tragically lost her life in a car accident on February 18, 2021. She was a member of the Kisa Class of 2018 at Mawenzi Secondary School and graduated in 2020 from Moshi Cooperative University. Lohi believed that as a Kisa Alumna she should give back to her community by mentoring girls. She expressed her kindness to her teammates by baking them delicious cakes, most recently for Valentine’s Day.
Drawings made by Mhelepu Shillingi, Kisa Class of 2018 at Mkuu Secondary School. Mhelepu attends the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) in Dar es Salaam, pursuing a degree in economics, insurance, and social funds. At the same time, she follows her passion and builds her art business. Entirely self-taught, Mhelepu was featured in the East Africa Art Biennale in 2019. Follow her on Instagram @mhelepushillingi_arts.