June 22, 2023
Education is a powerful tool that can transform lives and open doors to new opportunities. For Naifat, a young Tanzanian girl facing the challenges of growing up in a family with separated parents, her journey of self-discovery and empowerment began when she crossed paths with Room to Read social mobilizer Tafatia. With support from Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program, Naifat learned to recognize her own worth and uncover a hidden talent.
Tanzania has shown great progress in primary education where access, completion and equity have all improved. This is largely due to the Fee-Free Basic Education Policy, which makes education compulsory until the age of 15. The World Bank shows that from 2015 to 2018, primary school enrollment rose by 17 percent and secondary school enrollment increased by 23 percent. In addition, student retention through primary school increased by 39 percent.
Despite this progress, attendance and transition rates remain low from primary to secondary schools. Based on UNICEF data, net attendance drops from 81 percent to 28 percent from primary to lower secondary school. In upper secondary school, there is only a 3 percent net attendance rate. While this is partially because education is no longer compulsory, students also face pressures to drop out of school to enter the labor force or marry early.
While the gender gap has narrowed, only 38 percent of upper secondary school students are girls. Discrimination toward women and girls persists, seen most frequently in housing conditions, gender-based violence, employment, the ownership of assets and access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
Naifat's parents separated when she was young, which was often very difficult for her and contributed to low self-esteem. In moments of family conflict, Naifat would turn to music as a source of comfort and joy.
In 2020, Naifat joined Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program at her school. During a life skills lesson, her social mobilizer, a woman mentor from her community, asked the class “what do you want to be?” Naifat watched her classmates list off a number of different professions, from teacher to doctor to politician. Upon some reflection on her love of music, Naifat realized her dream was to become a singer. Through the program, Naifat discovered her singing talent and began to gain confidence.
Naifat never thought she would be brave enough to sing in front of an audience, but when the opportunity arose to sing at a wedding in her community, she jumped at the chance. She now dreams of becoming a businesswoman, using her singing skills to entertain customers and promote her business on social media. She plans to further develop her talent by pursuing music specialization in university.
Naifat is one of the girls featured in She Creates Change, Room to Read’s multimedia storytelling initiative to promote gender equality through the stories of young women. The project includes six animated and live action short films that profile how brave young women like Naifat in historically low-income communities have utilized skills and mentorship to overcome obstacles in their lives — from food scarcity to harassment to early marriage. She Creates Change aims to inspire young women everywhere to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.
The She Creates Change film series, which will be released in October 2023 to commemorate International Day of the Girl, aims to reach all 432 million adolescent girls globally with content and educational curriculum that supports them in creating change in their communities.