Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls

by AfricAid, Inc.
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Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Life-Changing Training for Tanzanian girls
Mhelepu creates art via charcoal + graphite pencil
Mhelepu creates art via charcoal + graphite pencil

The Kisa Project broadens minds while building practical skills. Without a program like Kisa, a Tanzanian school girl may not be able to picture a successful future for herself. With the stimulating weekly curriculum, the special events such as Career Day and Health Symposium, the growth experiences such as Year One Presentations and the 2 Day Challenge, and the professional Mentors who are role models and confidantes, a young woman develops the confidence to set a big goal and the self-awareness to dream.

These recent Kisa Alumnae are just three examples out of thousands. Their stories demonstrate how girls apply what they learn through Kisa to help realize their goals and design their own futures. They all share their big dreams and explain how Kisa equipped them to take steps toward them. All three of these young women started businesses to pay their way through university. Earning a degree was their goal, but their dreams extend way beyond that.

Mwika High School, Kisa Class of 2016-18

University of Dar es Salaam (PR and Advertising)

Philipina’s Dream: To own her own car.

Philipina runs a successful side business upscaling and reselling recycled slippers, shoes, handbags, and other items. 

Philipina shares her story, in her words:

"Before Kisa, I was not able to stand and express myself. I became confident as a Kisa person and gave the best presentations. It was the entrepreneurship classes in Kisa that really brought out my personality.

"I was in a remote area and had no funds to start a business. I picked up slippers in bad areas that were thrown away. I washed them and put on materials so they could be fancier and re-used. I find my clients by word of mouth, which works especially well in a university setting. They are happy and excited to see the before and after.

"Now that I am in Dar es Salaam, I sell to all kinds of people and they think my products are so innovative. I am able to sell my products all around Tanzania – when someone places an order, I ship it to them on public transport. I’ve even sold to people from abroad. A company employed me to create Kitenge and African print phone cases. They are classy and sell for a higher price. A phone case takes less than an hour to make. When I get a job after university, I plan to continue with this side business.

"Kisa changed my life for good! It helped me understand that by starting a business I can support myself. I was not sure my father would pay to send me to university. Not only does the money I earn help pay my university fees, I was able to buy myself a car. My dad is extremely proud of me now and even wants to join my business.



Mawenzi Secondary School, Kisa Class of 2015-17

Moshi Cooperative University (Accounting and Finance)

Ruth’s Dream: To open a bakery shop – and once it is established, to use the space to train other girls how to bake cakes and become entrepreneurs.

Ruth started a business baking custom cakes while in university and has continues it as a successful side business now that she has a full-time job.

Ruth shares the story of how she began baking cakes:

"Lohi, another Kisa Scholar, was my best friend. Together, we started a cake baking business. We had two more years to finish our degrees and then we planned to open a business in Moshi. At holidays, I told her what I knew and she told me what she knew. We started the business just like that. My first cake was actually horrible. I didn’t know how to use the tools. My mom supports me thinking big and she asked a friend to give me a lesson.

"Our friends and family were our clients at first. We posted on WhatsApp and Instagram and customers came to us! As the business grew and it was challenging to balance class work with the orders. It was either decline orders or work extra time – we worked extra!

"But then Lohi died in early 2021 in a car accident. I am honoring her by still opening a bakery and I will call it “Lohi’s Cakes.” I have found a great location in a high traffic place.

"Kisa made me. Kisa taught me how to learn in university and how to continue to learn in daily life. My Kisa Mentors built an entrepreneurial spirit in me that anything is possible. Through lessons like the Mandela leadership principles, I learned that being a leader means letting people feel their opinion matters. This directly relates to my business and my interaction with my customers. I make them feel important and involved. I listen very intently as I want to give them what they really wish to get.

"I have a calling to inspire other young girls to do more, to go beyond, to try anything – anything – to learn new skills. I want to tell girls what I learned in Kisa and what I am learning in life. I want them to know the sky is the limit so they can do something great with their lives. I have a childhood friend who got pregnant and didn’t finish her studies – I am teaching her baking now."

“When Ruth was a Kisa Scholar, she asked so many questions about university. When she was at university, she came back to her secondary school, Mawenzi, to speak about life at university. That day, I remember she was dressed gorgeous. She said she remembered the lesson on Mandela’s Leadership Principles and that one of her own principles is ‘appearance matters!’ After the death of her friend Lohi, she was really sad. But I am so proud of her for having the courage to keep on going. She has even come to the GLAMI office to get customers for her cakes.”

Magdalena Kitinya, Ruth’s Kisa Mentor



Mkuu High School, Kisa Class of 2016-18

Institute of Finance Management (Social Protection)

Mhelepu’s Dream: To open an art studio and help other girls see that art can be a professional job and a good source of income.

Mhelepu is an award-winning and internationally known self-taught artist who takes commissions for her realism portraits. She shares her artistic journey here:

"I am so passionate about art and enjoy it so much. When you have a unique talent, you don’t have to do it for free! Kisa gave me the idea to start a business selling my artwork.

"I use Instagram and WhatsApp to advertise my art and find clients and I have been in exhibitions. I have also partnered with a local sit-down restaurant in Dar es Salaam. They allow me to set up there and do live portraits. In March, 2021, I received an award from a Member of Parliament for this creative idea. I was also recently featured on a UN Women webinar.

"From Kisa, I learned so many important skills that have helped me in my business. These include time management (managing school and my art), decision making, budgeting, and public speaking. Career Day also was very inspiring and motivating to me.

"The 2 Day Challenge that we do at the end of our time in Kisa taught me the value of teamwork and networking. In the 2DC, you come up with a community improvement idea, figure out how to implement it, and then do it together as a class. Putting on an exhibition or workshop with fellow artists is a common goal and requires we work together – it’s the same thing!

"My class was the first at my school to have Kisa. I joined because I needed a guideline to help me achieve my goals and meet my dreams – and it is happening.

"I want to study art and learn other types of art (painting and animation, for example) while encouraging other girls meet their artistic goals. When you are a beginner, it is challenging because people don’t value art or see it as a professional job. I want to change mindsets so everyone will see art as a source of income."

“Mhelepu was one of my Kisa Scholars – she had a bright smile and was so creative! I admire so many things about her. She keeps on pushing herself, does not give up on her dreams, and is always ready to work and support others with kindness. I have seen her confidence continue to develop and grow in the way she has finessed her arts since secondary school.”

Mary Maika, Mhelepu’s Kisa Mentor

Philipina's business helped her buy a car!
Philipina's business helped her buy a car!
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In April and May, 2021, at 27 schools across Northern Tanzania, very special graduation ceremonies were held.  Speeches, singing, dancing, and cake marked the end of two amazing and especially challenging years for the 1,018 girls in the graduating classes of the Kisa Project.

There were the usual school chores and rotations, the studying, and struggling to master new information and techniques for final examinations – and then there was the lockdown period of the pandemic.  Isolated at home from their classmates and teachers for three months (March-June 2020) and uncertain when they would return to school, this class of Scholars showed resilience and fortitude. Kisa Mentors kept in touch with their Scholars by phone (calls, texts, WhatsApp messages).

The girls wore homemade sashes and ribbons and broad smiles as they marked their completion of the substantive, two-year extra-curricular leadership program.  It’s about more than awarding certificates and gifts though – it’s about celebrating their individuality and how far they have come.

A Kisa Mentor since 2018, Verynice Kirumu, says “It doesn’t feel like it could possibly be their time to graduate.  It’s gone by too fast.  All the trials and misfortunes, all the nights of study, all the classroom experiences, all the stress, all the efforts, it all comes together with this ceremony.  As their Mentor, it is bittersweet to be sharing their emotional moments and memories that they will cherish after secondary school life.”

There is not enough space to record all the thoughts of Scholars and Mentors upon this important occasion, but Verynice has collected a sampling, along with slide shows that tell the story of the day!

Arusha Secondary School


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While at home during COVID lockdowns, scholars of the programs we support faced myriad challenges ranging from pressure from their parents to work to family food insecurity to threats of violence or even early marriage. GLAMI mentors and social workers provided thoughtful, prompt assistance to girls and their families to ensure they received the assistance they needed. But even after life returned to "normal" after schools reopened, the girls in GLAMI's programs still had so much to process as they reflected on all that had happened in the preceding months. In addition, safety concerns prompted scaling back of GLAMI programming to biweekly, rather than weekly sessions.

"Safari ya Binti" was produced as a three month radio pilot project to help girls stay connected to the program and to their mentors while programming was scaled back. The project  has been incredibly well-received by scholars, headmasters, and by the entire GLAMI team. This programming has given girls an opportunity to continue to closely engage with the programming, and they have been excited to hear familiar voices on the radio each weekend. Girls who live at school listened with their peers; girls who live at home listen with their families. This was an important additional touchpoint that helped our scholars stay focused on their goals and dreams, in spite of everything they have endured. And, in addition to hearing their mentors speak, scholars were also able to hear from peers in their program; scholars who had previously participated in the curriculum were invited to the program to share ways in which they were able to apply the lessons being taught to their own lives.

While the radio programming was supported by the Australian Volunteers Program, funded by the Australian Government, it is donors like you who provide the critical funding we need to ensure that these mentoring programs carry on. For so many girls, it was this programming and the deep bonds they have formed with their mentors and fellow scholars that proved the only constant in the upheaval caused by COVID-19. 


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Kisa Scholars at Machame Girls Secondary School
Kisa Scholars at Machame Girls Secondary School

When schools closed in March due to COVID-19, our locally-led sister organizaiton and implementation partner, GLAMI (Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative, formerly AfricAid Tanzania) pivoted quickly to support Scholars by phone and text. 

As part of efforts during the past two years to improve communication with parents of girls in our programs, contact information is now on file for nearly 6,000 families. That enabled our mentors to make and track regular contacts by phone and text while schools were closed, tallying 18,000 phone calls and more than 193,608 text messages in under three months.

Two toll-free lines were established so any Scholar could reach out for assistance or support without needing a personal phone. WhatsApp study groups were formed to help keep girls connected with their Mentors, and study materials were provided to girls who needed textbooks and other items to prepare for their final exams. When schools prepared to reopen, GLAMI kept Scholars safe by providing cleaning supplies, handwashing stations and other materials to Partner Schools.

Since schools in Tanzania reopened on June 29, GLAMI only recorded 32 dropouts; meaning that of 6,619 girls enrolled in mentoring programs this year, 99% returned to their education after schools reopened. A remarkable figure - and a rate of return that is higher than GLAMI typically sees after school holidays. Read more about what they did to support girls return to school in this U.S. News & World Report article.

All of this work made possible because of generous donors like you!

Delivering COVID supplies to partner schools.
Delivering COVID supplies to partner schools.
Study materials provided to Scholars
Study materials provided to Scholars
Meeting with Scholars ahead of Form 6 exams
Meeting with Scholars ahead of Form 6 exams


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There are so many things in this life that we cannot control.  But, we can control whether we respond positively.

As the coronavirus rapidly circled the globe and schools everywhere closed, GLAMI (Girls Livelihood and Mentoring Initiative, which is AfricAid’s program implementation partner in Tanzania) committed to providing consistent support to the 6,600 girls in its two programs.  

A Kisa Mentor works through her list of phone numbers. 

Just like in other parts of the world, when novel COVID-19 arrived in Tanzania, it demanded a change in the way Mentors interact with their Scholars.  As of May 15, 2020, the 12 Kisa Mentors have logged thousands of phone calls and texts and no positive COVID-19 case has been reported.  The days are long and phones are glued to ears, but true to form, the Mentors are using the opportunity to improve themselves. One Kisa Mentor remarked “this experience has definitely enhanced my listening and communications skills.”


Luckily, GLAMI already had a system in place to facilitate communication.  Part of the enrollment process for the Kisa Project includes a Scholar Profile document, which contains contact information for the participant’s parents/guardians. With the encouragement of the 25 Partner School Liaisons, Mentors sent introductory text messages and started making phone calls to both Scholars and parents the very first week. They followed up by forming WhatsApp groups to make communication easier. These groups have also turned into a platform for academic discussions for the Scholars.


A Kisa Scholar performs her cooking chores before she starts to study at home.

When speaking individually to Kisa Scholars, Mentors check to see how they are adjusting and coping being back at home (most in the Kisa program attend boarding school). The girls have reported that they are having trouble adjusting their study schedules to do home chores, especially since it is currently planting season and many families have farming plots. The Mentors chat with them about maintaining a schedule and sharing it with their parents.  Mentors also speak directly with parents about giving their daughters time to study. Some Scholars are stressed because they left their study materials at school since they didn’t expect to be home for more than one month. Still others have no internet access, or even television or radio. Mentors are working with school liaisons to see how these isolated students can be supported.


Like youth all over the world, a Kisa Scholar settles down to study at home.

While it is a relief for the Scholars to be in touch with their Mentors, it is also comforting for the Mentors to know that their girls are safe and sound.  One Kisa Mentor said, “As the days go on, communication has been smooth and both parents and Scholars are collaborative.  Scholars are always excited to hear from me and I am glad they are still sounding hopeful and responsible.”

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Organization Information

AfricAid, Inc.

Location: Denver, CO - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @africaid
Project Leader:
Jessica Love
Denver , CO United States
$57,161 raised of $75,000 goal
336 donations
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