Working on a future for both girls and boys

Steven De Craen
25 July 2018
In Tanzania, VIA Don Bosco is committed to providing girls with access to technical and vocational education.

Grace's story: 'Don Bosco is a sure way to my destination'

‘I am Grace Mpili, 21 years old and third in a family of six. My parents are farmers. My life has not been easy. In order to provide my family with extra income I got up every morning at 3 to prepare samosa and fried manioc, which I then sold on the street. I was able to complete my secondary education but failed the national exam. Consequently, I was excluded from higher studies.

In 2015, I met Sister Sanctina Tomeka, who advised me to go to a Don Bosco vocational school. The following year, I started my electricity course there and now that I can study again, I feel happy. I learn every day and have been allowed to do an internship at a company for two months, which allowed me to apply the theoretical knowledge I had gained at school in practice.

The internship was not always easy. I had to cope with a language barrier and I was the only girl employed there. I didn't feel I belonged there at times, but I wanted to continue. Many people think that only boys can become electricians. I am proud to have been able to prove they were wrong. My mentor has named me the best intern in my group! And that encourages me to make my dream come true.’

 

Twee meisjes en een jongen maken een toestel in Tanzania

 

Equal opportunities 

Grace’s story illustrates well how VIA Don Bosco's partner schools in Tanzania are investing efforts in equal opportunities for boys and girls. The schools were originally created to provide education to boys, but girls already account for 38% of the pupil population, compared to only 11% in 2015. Tanzania has clearly made up for lost time!

Giving girls access to technical and vocational education is of fundamental importance for VIA Don Bosco and its partner schools in Tanzania in order to be able to respond to the challenges of today's society. First of all, there are economic reasons. Because of the increased cost of living, women are expected to earn an income too. In addition, the Tanzanian economy has been growing by approximately 7% per year since 2013, which has increased the demand for skilled labour.

Secondly, there are personal reasons. Equal opportunities for boys and girls can avoid a number of prevailing problems. Girls often marry at a young age, without having completed an education, which makes them dependent on their husbands in marriage. A diploma allows girls to make their own choices and to be more economically independent in life.

Finally, there are social reasons as well. In Tanzania, people say: 'To educate girls means to educate the whole society'. Children often learn from their mothers in the first place. If she is educated and employed, it will benefit the whole family.

Giving girls access to technical and vocational education is of fundamental importance for VIA Don Bosco and its partner schools in Tanzania in order to be able to respond to the challenges of today's society.

In practice

Easier said than done! Even in Belgium, vocational education is often still restricted to boys. In Tanzania, making the change has not been evident. Our vocational schools have organised a number of actions to encourage girls to follow vocational training. The Binti Thamani campaign (literally "precious girl") aimed to raise awareness among students, teachers and parents about equal opportunities for boys and girls in education, training, and work. After all, many girls were not aware that vocational training is accessible to them as well. The campaign reached 3,000 young people and is still paying off today: the number of girls in our vocational schools continues to grow steadily year after year.

But also in the day-to-day operation of our schools, the way is paved for equal opportunities. In the past, only sanitary facilities for boys were available. Now girls have their own toilets, which lowers the threshold for attending school. Besides, schools enter into partnerships with companies and organisations that sponsor girls' education, so that the financial capacity of the family is no longer an obstacle for girls to  enrol for a training.  

The campaign reached 3,000 young people and is still paying off today: the number of girls in our vocational schools continues to grow steadily year after year.

On the way to work               

Despite the significant progress that was made, the challenges facing our local partners remain considerable, especially as regards the labour market, which is still too much defined by "male" and "female" occupations. In the coming years, this will be one of the most important action points and both organisations and companies will be encouraged to reduce the gender gap in the workplace. For example, an 'Employers Forum' is organised every year to which companies and organisations are invited and where gender is always on the agenda. As part of our mission to support young people in finding work, we are striving to get girls employed in professions that are predominantly male. 

And so we come back to Grace, who concludes her story with what we stand for and work for with our partner schools in Tanzania:

‘Do not look at Grace as just a girl but look at what I am capable of doing. I want to be high as my photo shows’

 

Twee mensen hoog op een electriciteitsmast

 

VIA Don Bosco

 

Don Bosco is a recognised Belgian NGO that supports education and employment for young people in Africa and Latin America. For more than 45 years we have been providing pedagogical and financial support to local schools. The development of social and professional competences among young people with fewer opportunities is the central theme in our projects. This way, we help them to become active world citizens and to find a place on the labour market. At the same time, we are building bridges between schools in Belgium and elsewhere in the world. That is how VIA Don Bosco is working towards an equitable  society that meets the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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About the same theme - Article 5 /6 School attendance = learning?