I just wrapped up the 2nd facilitator's meeting for one of my new endeavors, the Lulu program, and I get more and more excited about it each week. Lulu is a group that we will be running in our parish and local neighborhood for girls 15-20 years old to teach them about life skills, health and business/entrepreneurship skills. Lulu means "pearl" in Swahili. The idea is that the girls are pearls in God's hands and He cherishes them like a precious jewel. We are going to use materials from, and structure the group after, a program (which is where the name comes from) that was started here in Mwanza and already has a history of success. A lay missioner from another organization created the program and she has a wealth of information and experience that she has so generously agreed to share with us. Plus, every once in a while our girls, as well as our facilitators, will be able to meet girls from other Lulu programs around Mwanza to network and exchange ideas/experiences.
There is a need for education such as this all over the world, but especially in Tanzania. Often young girls bear the brunt of work in the household, causing them to leave school early. Girls here are regularly married at an early age so that the family can collect the bride price and also to lighten the financial burden of the family with one less mouth to feed. Girls have very little voice and their self esteem can be quite low. They are trafficked from villages into the city (or abroad) to work in homes as "house girls," where they aren't paid, are often abused and aren't send to school. Young women in TZ also experience high rates of physical, sexual and other form of abuse.
Lulu will help by teaching the girls their rights as human beings and residents of Tanzania. The group will give the girls a safe place to talk with other girls and to realize that they are not alone in their life situations. They will be able to build their own self esteem and will be empowered to help other girls in similar situations. And, most appealing to the girls themselves, it will give them an opportunity to learn business skills so they can start their own small businesses. Having access to their own money will give them a little bit of independence. With income, girls are less likely to sell their bodies, are more able to escape violence in their homes, and have more power within the family.
We are still in the planning stages of the group and hope to start meeting with the girls around the beginning of October. Stay tuned for more information as we continue planning.
In the meantime, here are some ways you can help, if you're interested.
- Prayers that our group successfully gets off the ground and that we reach girls who are able to benefit from the program.
- Ideas (and instructions!) for income generating activities. Partway through the program I will teach the girls a few things that they can do for a business. (Keep in mind that materials are hard to come by here in TZ and most girls won't be able to afford much in the way of start-up costs.)
- Of course, we always need funds. At this point, we need money to buy pens and notebooks for all the girls as well as for other materials, such as paper and photocopies. Donations can be made here through MKLM in the name of "Katie Reid's Mission Account." (Please don't ship any of these things because the cost is very expensive, we have unreliable mail and we want to keep it locally-sustainable.)
- Have you done a similar program for girls in Africa? I'd love to hear your experience, challenges, successes, ideas!
- Spread the word about our work. Read our current newsletter and let me know in the comments section here if you want to get on our mailing list, then print the newsletter and give it to friends and family. The more people we have cheering us on, the better!