Elizabeth Owoya is a Program Social Worker and Community Liaison with GLAMI. Her position is designed to provide wraparound support to Scholars who need services that may not typically be provided by GLAMI.
“In my role, I work as a custodian who provides child protective services to our Scholars. I utilize my training, knowledge, and skills to help GLAMI Scholars build self-resilience when it comes to the challenges they are facing. Adolescent girls need someone they trust to communicate these challenges to, who can share tools and strategies and help connect girls with resources and services that can help them stay focused on their studies, their health, and their goals,” said Elizabeth.
A key feature of GLAMI’s 4-year Binti Shupavu mentoring program is the involvement of parents. Parents are engaged through an annual Parent Engagement Meeting (PEM), which gives GLAMI the opportunity to remind parents about their responsibilities, and help GLAMI build relationships with parents of Scholars, and vice versa. More information means less confusion, more trust, and increased parental support for their daughter’s education.
Supporting Parents to Support Their Daughters
This year, GLAMI held 11 PEMs in the Arusha region and 12 in the Kilimanjaro region, connecting with more than 1,700 parents of girls enrolled this year in Binti Shupavu. As the meeting facilitator, Elizabeth had the opportunity to discuss parenting skills and children’s rights. She was also able to teach parents and caregivers about the different opportunities available within their communities that could be helpful in supporting families economically, so families can continue to support their daughter’s educational needs.
“PEMs are so important to GLAMI because this is where most parents gain an understanding of Binti Shupavu. This is also where parents can build relationships with GLAMI staff. When we all work together, we are better able to support girls in reaching their goals,” explained Elizabeth.
Parents often have lots of questions for Elizabeth and her colleagues. Most frequently, they want to know why boys are not included in GLAMI mentoring programs, and why Binti Shupavu deals only with secondary school girls and not primary level girls.
To answer these questions, Elizabeth explains that the programs were researched and designed specifically for secondary school girls. In addition, the gaps in education in Tanzania for girls remain larger than for boys. But, this doesn’t mean boys are excluded from GLAMI programs; boys have participated in Binti Shupavu programming in the past. In addition, over the most recent winter break, GLAMI participated in Project Zawadi in providing a Life Skills Camp that included boys.
Elizabeth has found that as their daughters progress through the program, parents do, too. They gain a better understanding of the program as their daughters share the skills they are learning through Binti Shupavu programming. Parents of older Scholars also tend to become resources for other parents, answering questions for other parents who are new to or not yet aware of the program.
Continued Engagement and Learning
After the PEM ends, Elizabeth follows up with parents to congratulate and thank them for their participation. She takes great care to ask whether parents have been practicing what they learned during the meetings. In the months following, she maintains her relationship with parents by making regular phone calls, sending monthly messages, and conducting home visits.
“Scholars appreciate that we involve their parents in this way. Girls tell me they feel valued, they are happy their parents get to understand Binti Shupavu in detail, and they are glad that these meetings help their parents to understand why education is so important for girls,” said Elizabeth.
Thinking about the impact of these meetings, Elizabeth recalled the story of one parent whom she met, sharing: “One of the parents at a PEM declared that she was concerned her daughter would not graduate from her studies because of her behavior. Her daughter joined Binti Shupavu and really took to the programming. Her behavior changed and her mother realized it was due to the lessons she was learning and the connection she had developed with other Scholars and with her Mentor. Today, she insists to other parents that they must allow their daughters to join the program!”