International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and appreciate the immense value of women around the world. It is a day to honour their strength, intelligence and contributions, when the achievements of the past are lauded as the foundation for a brighter future.
It is widely acknowledged that empowering women is an essential part of combating many of the problems currently facing the world, from climate change to infant mortality. Women hold great untapped potential, which can benefit society from the family unit all the way up to an entire nation. Together we must free this potential. With improved educational and social resources available to women, they can strengthen their communities in a way that stays true to its cultural values while incorporating research and ideas developed by acclaimed international non-profits.
With high levels of school dropouts and early marriages for Zambia’s girls, it is important to start empowering girls from a young age to bring about long-term change. Ultimately, by providing these girls with the tools and mindset for success early on, they will be able to carry them into adulthood, resulting in a legacy of women having greater socioeconomic and political influence.
Founded in 2015 by the Time + Tide Foundation, the Yosefe Girls Club works with girls aged 11 to 15 in rural Zambian communities across the South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Liuwa Plain. In these areas, traditional expectations for girls are domestic in nature, or if professional, are stereotypically feminine, such as teaching or nursing. Rarely, if ever, are girls encouraged to pursue careers in other fields, such as becoming doctors, scientists or lawyers. These underlying societal beliefs coupled with conditions of extreme poverty in many households often means that girls and their education are deprioritised and their ability to reach their full potential is diminished. In a climate of gender stereotypes and taboos, the girls must navigate their way through adolescence with little guidance and support.
The Yosefe Girls Club strives to combat these problems and create a world in which girls have confidence in themselves and their abilities; and have the strength to pursue dreams that extend beyond the imposed limits of gender stereotypes. It hopes to equip the girls with the tools they need to not only survive this challenging environment, but to flourish while so doing.
Project director Kalinda Zimba believes that such programmes are invaluable to young girls. It is hard work, but at the end of the journey, she is rewarded with seeing the extraordinary transformations these girls go through.
“…the change is quite obvious. They would be very confident, expressive, their English would improve, their grades would improve, their professional aspirations would drastically change – all through the lessons we plan for them,” Zimba says of the results.
While participating in the club, the girls will take part it planned lessons, confidence building exercises, group activities and day trips to visit successful women in their workplaces for inspiration. Beyond this, stand out students are selected every year for scholarships that will allow them to continue to pursue their education at the top schools around the nation.
A big part of the programme’s success is due to the fact that it’s run by women. Zimba strongly believes in the importance of showcasing strong female leadership to these young girls. By providing an example of a successful, professional woman, Zimba and the other women of the Time + Tide Foundation are able to lead by example, further inspiring the next generation of empowered women.
“It is the ‘if she can, then I can also’ concept. It’s very motivating to see a woman go above and beyond what is expected of them,” explained Zimba.
Sharing in this journey with the participants of the Yosefe Girls Club is a meaningful experience for Zimba as well. Growing up in Zambia herself, she has also had to navigate the same climate of gender stereotypes and taboos while earning her Bachelor’s in special education and her Master’s in clinical neuropsychology. By showing how far a woman can go with the right mindset and education, Zimba hopes to inspire more Zambian girls to dream bigger and strive for their full potential.
“To me, celebrating International Women’s Day means appreciating women and valuing what women can bring to life. It reminds the whole world that women matter, and they should be celebrated,” she said when asked about the planned celebrations.
On this International Women’s Day, we at Time + Tide applaud the dedication and spirit of Kalinda Zimba, the women of the Time + Tide Foundation and all the strong, wonderful girls of Zambia. As we strive together for a world of gender equality, we look to their leadership and passion for the way forward to a brighter future.
If you would like to read more about the Yosefe Girls Club and the other incredible work done by the Time + Tide Foundation, please visit their website H E R E.