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Lilian’s Story: Education is Life

My name is Lilian and I am a Maasai woman and Managing Director of an NGO in Tanzania called Community Research and Development Services (CORDS). As we enter the season of giving, I want to let you know about an extremely concerning issue in my community and one that is very close to my heart: girls’ education.

In Tanzania, COVID-19 has put extra financial pressure on already vulnerable families. Girls are at high risk of dropping out of school, with parents struggling to pay fees and prioritising boys’ education. In Maasai communities, girls who drop out are extremely unlikely to ever return to education. Once they reach adolescence, many girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and marry soon after for a bride price.

With CORDS, I am working to combat gender inequality and help girls finish their education. We are currently supporting 344 girls at 12 schools in the extremely disadvantaged Monduli and Longido districts. However, there are so many more girls in need of support.

I know first-hand the value of education. I escaped marriage at fourteen, just after primary school. I recall the moment when I came back from school and found out that someone had asked my father to marry me.

I was lucky my father was a village chief and did not accept straight away. He waited for my primary school results, which were not out yet. The day my school results came out was one of the happiest days of my life. I had achieved good marks so I knew my father would not send me away to marry because the government would follow up on me to ensure I continued my education.

I secured a scholarship to join secondary school for six years and to attend university in Nairobi, Kenya. A sponsor supported me throughout high school and university with everything I needed, including my uniforms, stationery, medication and, above all, school fees.

After graduating university, I joined CORDS and worked closely with the Head of Gender and Women to develop a scholarship program because I was so passionate about how education had changed my life. With the modest salary from this job, I saved up to build my mother a modern, permanent house.

I have now been Managing Director of CORDS for 10 years. My vision for women and girls is to be independent, respected, valued, and free to make their own choices.

How many girls are missing out on education because their brothers are considered a better investment? How many girls could be running companies, sitting in parliament or, like me, heading up NGOs, if only they had stayed in school? How many girls dropped out and were married off before they were even given a chance?

Education means life! Without my sponsor, I wouldn’t be the Lilian I am today. I want to give as many girls as possible the same opportunities I had.

Can I count on you this Christmas to help girls stay in school and protect them from FGM and child marriage? Your gift can pay for school fees, uniforms, textbooks, lunches, and sanitary pads to prevent girls from dropping out.

Your gifts will also ensure the CORDS team can visit the girls, monitor their progress, and ensure they have everything they need to succeed at school.

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It would mean the world to me if you could dig deep and support girls this Christmas. Together, we can help them reach tertiary education or enter well-paid jobs, transforming their lives and the lives of those around them.

Thank you for supporting my work with disadvantaged girls in Tanzania. On behalf of CORDS and our good friends at Action on Poverty, I wish you a happy and safe festive season.

Yours sincerely,

Lilian Loolitai
Managing Director
Community Outreach and Development Services (CORDS), Tanzania

CORDS is an Action on Poverty Partner and therefore all gifts $2 and over are tax-deductible. Please donate now to help girls finish school and access a world of opportunities.

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