What do we hope to accomplish in mentoring our Scholars? What change do we want to make?
In answering these questions, my colleagues and I came up with words like developing young women with courage, confidence, resilience, self-esteem, who are goal oriented and community leaders – and forming a sisterhood.
Many of us, Mentors and Scholars included, would describe the Kisa Project as a family. Family members support one another. To illustrate this spirit of sisterhood and how a class of Kisa Scholars truly becomes a family, I will share the story of Wema and Lidya, who are both Year Two Scholars at Arusha Secondary School. Let me introduce them and then, because every individual is the best author of her own story, Wema and Lidya will tell theirs.
Wema is one of those girls that is very hard to notice in a crowd. She is very quiet, not confident, will not raise her hand when questions are asked, or even contribute much in group work. People don’t expect much from Wema, which means “kindness” in Swahili, and even in her daily classes teachers don’t give her a chance to speak. However, Wema is very smart. Even though she doesn’t seem as outgoing as the others, she has a contribution to make and a voice that should be heard.
Lidya could not be more different than Wema. She is very confident and always up front. She is one of the smartest girls in class and a bit older (she is already 18). Even though she is so self-assured and proactive, she is also the humblest Scholar I have ever mentored. She will always be at the parking lot waiting for me to arrive at school every Friday so that she can help me carry my bag and class materials. After Kisa Class, she is the last one to depart and walks me out of the school.
My name is Wema and I live with my mom and dad. My parents love all their children and work so hard every day to make sure we have all our basic needs. Our parents have always wanted us to get an education and they work extra hard to make sure we all get one. However, people have always bullied us, saying we will not reach our dreams, especially because we are girls.
When I joined Arusha Secondary School, I didn’t think Kisa would be for me. I decided to join, but in the back of my brain I knew I was just checking to see if it was worth it. When I joined, I was never confident in class, and I am still struggling, but I would say I am not the same person I was before Kisa. I met a family and a Mentor who understands my flow and gives me many chances to improve myself.
I will never forget one day when I was in geography class. I was to give a presentation, but I couldn’t. I was shivering and my voice was hardly heard.
The teacher said to the rest of the class, “Can someone else please help Wema present her part?”
Just as some students raised their hands, the group of Kisa girls in my class stood up and Lidya said, “Sir, we know that Wema can do this presentation. She only needs a little time to regroup. Let her do it herself.”
Then Lidya looked at me and said “Wema, you got this. You were in the group discussion and you know exactly what you have to present. You can use your own voice to deliver this.”
This was the first time someone believed in me. It felt so good to have an army of leaders from Kisa having my back. I smiled and I held my notebook and I did the presentation. When I was done, everyone cheered and clapped for me.
It is moments like these that remind me of why I stayed and made a commitment to Kisa. Kisa Classes are my safe space. They are the only place that I can be myself without being judged or misunderstood. Kisa has helped me express my ideas in a group, improve my confidence, and learn to speak to people with different personalities. I am learning so much from my fellow Scholars. We are a team.
The following week, we told our Mentor, Ms. Kaaya, this story and she got so emotional and excited. She is an amazing Mentor because she treats us all the same. She shows us that every woman has this fire inside of her, and then when it starts burning, we can all be heroines and do great things.
My name is Lidya and I live with my mom, who is a single parent. I am the sixth born in my family and I love that we are a close-knit unit.
When I came to Arusha Secondary School, I did not know anything about Kisa. But, when I joined in, I felt like I had found another family. Kisa has been like a father to me and more than that, it has changed my life completely. It has taught me the lessons of life that my own family and my teachers never did. Kisa has opened my ears and I am now courageous and know my virtue. I feel strong, confident, and brave.
Being a leader is not easy. Sometimes people bully you, sometimes people look down on you, and sometimes they tell you things that may make you want to give up. But all these challenges are easy to face when you have received the skills from Kisa.
Now, I push myself and others to be upfront, feel alive, and get things done. I also teach those who are not in Kisa that lessons that we learn in the program. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Kisa Scholar and a citizen of this country to go out of my way to support others.
I will never forget the feeling I had when Wema was able to give her presentation. That was the first time I used my voice to be part of something bigger than myself.
As a Mentor teaching Kisa Classes, I feel obliged to understand people like Wema and help them feel that they belong to the Kisa family. Because we have set ground rules to help each other become the best version of themselves, students like Lidya understand that they have a responsibility to uplift those whose confidence and self-esteem are low.
Hearing what the class had done to support Wema to achieve and own her confidence was a moment of a lifetime. All I ever want for my Scholars is to develop the spirit of sisterhood and support each other in all the ways they can. There is so much power gained from supporting one another and I see it played out every day in my classroom.
Meet Wema and Lidya’s Mentor, Ellie Kaaya.
Kisa Project is a two-year leadership course that prepares girls in their last two years of secondary school to attend university and create positive social change in their communities.
There are many more pairs of Scholars at AfricAid’s Partner Schools in Tanzania like Wema and Lidya. You can give them the Kisa experience!
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