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Zambia, 31 May 2017: Reaching my potential

By Precious Mumbi Habeenzu

© UNICEF/Zambia/2017/Habeenzu
Lumpa Phiri

In its response to the Government of the Republic of Zambia on skilling up the youth population by 2030, UNICEF Zambia, with funding from UK National Committee, is supporting implementation of the Zambian Girls 2030: Reaching My Potential initiative, a program of entrepreneurship, financial literacy, career guidance, and corporate mentoring aimed at empowering adolescent Zambian girls, enabling them to gain important skills to both improve their own lives and to contribute to the realization of Zambia’s Vision 2030.

18 year old Lumpa Phiri from Mpulungu district is one of the 6,000 girls enrolled in the 200 school-level career and skills clubs in Zambia’s eight target districts. Lumpa is currently in her twelve grade at Mpulungu Boarding School and is the sixth born from a family of ten children and had no hopes of ever being selected onto this program (due to many reasons including high poverty status of her family and lack of self-confidence as she did not feel intelligent enough to be selected).

It was during the school holidays that Lumpa received a notice from the school informing her of her selection. “I was surprised and simply could not believe it because I come from a very poor family, my mother sells tomatoes and vegetables to sustain all ten of us and, as the sixth born, I worry about my younger siblings all the time. In this instance, I worried about pocket money too as I could not afford to carry any pocket money during the camp.”

Target provinces and districts were identified based on poverty, gender, and education indicators and in consultation with the MoGE. Participating girls were identified through a needs-based assessment in selected schools in designated districts. All girls participating in the internship programme are drawn from the established Career and Skills Clubs and Camps.

Life before the career and skills development programme

“There simply were no career clubs at my school before this initiative and we were never motivated to work hard in school or have any skills life skills to enable us make informed decisions,” she said. “Where I come from, my peers get married easily because they are not empowered and motivated to understand the importance of completing their education first. This exposure has helped me see the greener pasture and importance of education and my immediate goal is to pass my Grade 12 first.”

My selection

“When I heard the announcement that the school would be sending some of the pupils to career camp in Kasama and internship programme in Lusaka, I did not think or feel I was intelligent enough to be selected compared to the rest of my peers,” she adds. “To make it worse, I did not even have clothes to wear for the career outfit we were supposed to dress up in as part of the selection criteria and for this reason, I simply ruled myself out of being selected,” Lumpa says.

“My mother was very happy to hear that I was selected to represent my school. When I go back home, I plan to share my experience in Lusaka with the rest. I have taught my mother how to save money and I look forward to sharing more with her.”

Because of her zeal to learn more and participate in class activities, Lumpa has just been selected as the class Captain and she is looking forward to sharing her experience with her peers.

My message

With her mother as her role model, Lumpa’s motto in life is hard work and prioritize education. “In life, there are challenges and for us to overcome them, we need to work hard, we should not give up easily and hard work definitely pays off all the time,” she said. “I believe that there is no failure in life, the trick is simply to work hard and seek guidance when not clear on your studies,” she adds.


Lumpa’s favourite sport is netball and she explains why. “I love netball because there is a lot of negotiation in this game and I have to negotiate my way through in order to succeed. Failure to negotiate in this game is a quick way to lose. I have been playing netball from the age of six and I have come to apply my netball negotiation skills to my studies and the way I relate to others in that I realize that for me to pass my exams, I have to study hard, negotiate my way through my books, and if I do not understand, I freely am able to reach out to my teachers for guidance,” she says.

How has this programme shifted your mind-set?

“Before this programme, I used to be very lazy in class. I never bothered to participate in class activities even when I knew the answers simply because I had no self-esteem. I know my teacher observed me very closely because she would try to talk to me and encourage my participation in class. Participating in the internship for the second time has given me the confidence to contribute to all class activities and right now, I am one of the best quiz participants in my class and at school in general,” she adds.


Habeenzu is a Communications Officer with UNICEF Zambia and can be reached on



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