My name is Catiza Henriques, I am a community activist for Girls Inspire Project in Muzuane Baixa suburb. My daughter Muanema Saide is one of the beneficiaries of this project. Today I am filled with pride to be part of such a great initiative like this Girls Inspire project. The first time I saw Maria Amade, the Community Facilitator in our community talking about Girls Inspire project, I did not pay any attention to her. I went on with my business, I had seen some projects come, promise us great things and then deliver very little. However, last October, Muanema was integrated into the project. Whenever she came back from the meetings and sports / games activities she would be so happy and would share information that the facilitators were teaching her. She would also be happy to have gone out and spoken to her peers and learned something. Our community is a closed community, our culture does not allow girls to just go out in the street unaccompanied. However, when Maria Amade presented the project, I saw some of the benefits that sending Muanema would have for her, for our family and the community.
As part of her duties, Maria Amade also mobilized not only girls to attend the training courses, but she was also looking for community members to participate in the project “community volunteers”. I was hesitant to participate as I thought that I did not have any skills to talk to community members. However, what drove me to accept was the high levels of teenage pregnancies in my community. Girls Inspire project called my attention to this issue and highlighted the fact that united in one common cause it was possible to join forces and fight against the occurrence. I was also motivated to join because the project was going to give me tools and build my capacity to raise awareness about teenage pregnancy and other issues like child, early and forced marriage affecting my community.
As a mother, I was concerned about my other children falling victims of child, early and forced marriage like my daughter Muanema. I felt compelled to learn skills that would help me bring up the issue with my husband whilst still respecting “culture” and religion. I also wanted to understand how I could help my daughter cope being a young unwilling bride. I am very happy to see my daughter learning some skills with support from the project. Most of us would like to see our children educated and well equipped with different skills, but we do not have the conditions to send them to school. This opportunity and support is giving our girl children a second chance to continue to dream bigger and have future possibilities to help their own children in future.
I would like to thank this project for this initiative because it has brought immense happiness in our community. We are starting to notice the differences between the girls that are participating in this project and those that are not. The girls that are part of this project are now more aware of risks of teenage pregnancy and the benefits of education. They know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies as they had a chance to visit ADPP clinic as well as the other health facilities were they received a lot of useful information on these topics. The skills they are gaining are also helping them to appreciate that they can be bread winners in their homes. Some of the girls are considering enrolling in school to complete their primary school and advance to secondary or college education. All the girls that I have talked to as I have been doing my volunteer work repeat their gratitude for the opportunities that Girls Inspire has opened up for them.
As a volunteer, “activist” I am doing all that I can to support the community facilitator to mobilize girls in particular and the community at large to fight against child early and forced marriages and teenage pregnancies. I am even talking to my sons, my nephews and brothers at any opportunity to discourage them from the act of marrying young girls or impregnating young girls. I also talk to the girls about the negative consequences of dropping out of school. I have Girls Inspire to be thankful for this work that I am doing for my community.