Population: 58 million
Poverty rate: 26.4%
In July 2020, Tanzania reached an important milestone, graduating from low-income to middle-income country status. However, 14 million people are still trapped below the poverty line, with rural communities, women, and people with disabilities at risk of being left behind.
In rural areas where most people rely on agriculture, lack of access to natural resources and increased climate variability are significant challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has also slowed down the economy, pushing more households towards poverty – especially those who are self-employed or operating informal micro-enterprises. Natural disasters and civil conflict also pose a threat to the peace and prosperity of Tanzanians.
Empowering Maasai girls through education
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). 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.
It would mean the world to me if you could dig deep and support girls. 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.
Managing Director, Community Outreach and Development Services (CORDS)
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