AfricAid is so pleased that Eliakunda Kaaya has come on board in the Arusha, Tanzania office as a Kisa Mentor. It’s almost like she has never left AfricAid… she was one of the first Kisa Scholars, maintained a close relationship with her Mentors, had a volunteer internship, became a substitute Kisa Mentor and now, at last, she is a full-time Kisa Mentor!
As a follow up to our blog introducing the new Kisa Mentors, we invite you to get to know Eliakunda in more depth.
What was your experience like as a Kisa Scholar?
I commenced Kisa in 2011 as a student at Enaboishu Secondary School. Kisa was introduced to all the Form 5 students – we were the first year group. 15 girls passed the interview.
I really needed Kisa because I knew I wanted to become a leader but I didn’t know how. Kisa taught me to believe in myself and to believe that I could do anything. It gave me space to dream and the confidence to believe. It changed my life a lot. The most important things were the mentoring I received from my Kisa Mentors Anande and Esther, and the peer support from other Kisa Scholars. This gave me the encouragement to ultimately become Head Girl at the school.
I had a very difficult childhood, and so I learned to do things on my own without relying on anyone else. And I thought I could do it on my own. But not sharing my struggles with others, and keeping it all inside me, made me sick in my heart. Through Kisa, I came to understand the importance of having a support network and the rewards of finding the courage to trust others. Kisa gave me the best family anyone could ask for.
What did you do after you graduated from Kisa in 2013?
After I graduated, I really wanted to help my mother financially so I did some business in the market. I was selling vegetables, but I didn’t earn enough to support us. I then got a temporary job at a secondary school teaching history and English to Form 3 and 4 students. The whole time I’d kept in touch with Anande. My dream was to study in the US and Anande and other AfricAid staff wanted to keep supporting me to reach my dream. I applied to study in the US, but was not successful in receiving a placement with a scholarship.
AfricAid then offered me an internship and I helped with data entry as well as being a substitute Kisa Mentor. My AfricAid colleagues encouraged and supported me to apply to study in Tanzania instead – my Plan B! In September 2014 I started at St Augustine University of Tanzania and have just finished my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. I really loved the course. During breaks, I volunteered with AfricAid and in August this year I started working full time with AfricAid as a Kisa Mentor.
What do you hope to achieve as a Kisa Mentor?
I want to inspire and share with other girls. So many people have given me hope and inspiration, so that I can gain something. It’s a blessing for you if others succeed through your hand. I like to invest in other people and to give back for all that I have received.
It feels so good to see how these girls stand up on their feet and want to become better, to be transformed, and to become dreamers with a vision to see those dreams come true. Mentoring younger girls is one of the best things you can do. I also learn from the girls, so it’s a win-win. And I really like dealing with people now. I can deal with any type of personality. When you know people, I think you know the world.
What is your vision for women in Tanzania?
I’d like to see Tanzanian women become independent. I want them to be able to stand on their own and do all those things men think they can’t do; I want them to stand up and say ‘these are our rights’. I want women to be able to stand up on behalf of down-trodden. I want to see a country full of women who have vision, who are independent, and can stand by themselves.
When a girl is born in Tanzania, people say ‘oh, it’s a girl’. When a boy is born, they say ‘it’s a king, it’s a hero’. Women are seen as less valuable. My vision is that when a girl is born people will say ‘it’s a queen, it’s a heroine’ and shout it out proudly.
I want women to be able to do anything men can do, and to do it even better. I want a world with equality – there should be same opportunities for men and women, in school, in politics, everywhere.
As a woman, you meet a lot of obstacles and a lot you face will try to knock you down. Whenever I take a step and get knocked down, even though it’s hard to stand up, I dust my off, and start the journey again, having learned what knocked me down. So then I know what to change. I always learn from obstacles and I try not to make the same mistake again. I just try to knock those obstacles out of my way!
I want girls to understand that they have within themselves the capability to become the best version of themselves and to achieve anything they set their mind to.
What are you future plans?
My biggest dream now is to do more for women and girls in my community and beyond. I feel like I have a responsibility to help girls realize their rights, especially their right to education. I want to be part of the fight against all of those things that obstruct girls from attaining an education: poverty and other financial constraints, the status quo in Tanzania, and cultural factors. I also want to complete a Masters degree in the future.