This blog post was written by Tendo, from TuWezeshe Akina Dada Tanzania partner, The Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF)
When I left the TuWezeshe Leadership Training I was nicknamed ‘TuWezeshe’ because of the many ideas I suggested at the training, to my organisation Building Tomorrow. I was filled with enthusiasm from meeting young women that, like myself, were willing to go against all odds to unapologetically fight for women’s rights and to stop the high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence. I am encouraged that the world consists of safe spaces such as the TuWezeshe Fellowship which I had the chance to occupy. This is my story.
From the moment I entered the room at the Garuga Beach Resort, I met women with different stories and from all walks of life — women that worked with sex workers, marginalized sexualities, young mothers and girls. These women were social workers, lawyers, IT specialists and journalists like myself. To me that is when the transformation began. It became very clear that there was nothing else to be but an activist in the places I worked and lived. I was trained to provide mentorship and a social structure for the sisters — not judgement.
Prior to my joining the Fellowship, I had had an idea to lead an initiative that addressed the needs of young mothers in schools and empowered them financially and socially. I had no clear idea, however, of how I was going to implement such an initiative. The guidance, resources and confidence given by the TuWezeshe Fellowship allowed me to target and collaborate with three interested school communities that had the capacity to build a force against SGBV and gender violations.
I started at Kibaale East. Even though the school had no electricity the teachers were very interested in computer lessons. Using my own laptop, a colleague and I were able to deliver these lessons on the condition that each teacher attended a session on how to promote inclusive learning environments and ensure that all students learnt in positive surroundings.
For the pupils, we started the Girls Sisterhood Club at New Eden Primary school. The club builds on themes such as gender fluidity and gender roles. It facilitates discussions, debates, reading, watching movies, and farming. Each of these activities has a lesson learning outcome that empowers confidence and power in being a girl.
For the community, the Fellowship has enabled me to build the Embibo Gender Based Initiative,which is aimed at young mothers aged of 15–20; we empower them with skills to improve their employability and daily life such as CV writing, health talks, nutrition talks. We even rolled out a bar soap making session through which we hope to intensify financial opportunities as well as the inclusion and provision of grants.
Personally, I have been able to write a pro-women blog — (pebbletalk.wordpress.com — that gives a friendly narrative of the bottled-up feelings that African women may have and serves as training for my own journey towards writing fiction. The events that we have attended as part of the Fellowship have broadened our network and exposed us to more complex theories of power which impact our capacity as activists and feminists. The old perception of mentorship is that the mentor is an authority figure who teaches while the mentee simply learns — a unilateral flow of information. However through the mentorship scheme offered by the Fellowship, I have found that mentorship is based on shared power, learning and mutual improvement; this has been instrumental in the viewing of myself as a leader. My mentor works at Land Net and is an endless fountain of knowledge. During our meetings and catch-ups, she has equipped me with a spirit that refuses to give up and work hard even where I may not have the necessary funds or resources.
TheTuWezeshe Akina Dada Fellowship continues to be an incredibly insightful and wonderful movement to be a part of. It’s great to be working on something I’m so passionate about. One of the questions we were asked at training was:
“What is leadership?”
My answer: “It is the ability to use hard work to influence and inspire positive change for the greater good of others around you”. That definition is my guiding light every day toward sisterhood, mentorship and transformation.