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2013: UNICEF supports girl-child mentoring sessions

international day of the girl-child
© UNICEF Zambia/2013/Nalungwe
UNICEF Zambia's Reports Officer, Evelyn Mbulo in a session with one of the groups at Matero Girls Secondary School in Lusaka

By Betty Chella Nalungwe

LUSAKA, Zambia – UNICEF organized a mentoring session for girls at Matero Girls Secondary School on 21 November 2013. The event was graced by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director Viola Morgan who shared with the audience a moving portrait of her life story.

UNICEF invited a group of established female professionals from a diverse background to participate in the mentoring sessions immediately following a special assembly of female students at the government school.  The mentors also included UNICEF Zambia’s female staff. After the assembly, the girls broke out into groups of 10 with one mentor who spoke to them about their individual backgrounds and also encouraged the girls to stay focused on their studies as well as how they can achieve their individual dreams. The mentees also had a chance to ask questions. The mentors took rotations around the groups so that each group got a chance to listen from and interact with at least three mentors.

The UNDP Country Director encouraged the girls, “I want to implore you to work hard at whatever you do.  If you are given a task, do it well. If you are asked to sweep, be the best sweeper anyone has ever seen. Above all be responsible citizens and study hard. You are destined to be great and your gifts can only come if you claim them by doing your part. Stay the course, stay in school, and aspire to become who you want to be,” Ms. Morgan said.

Matero Girls Secondary School is a big school with a student population of 4,300 girls (which includes the, afternoon, evening, and distance education students). Situated in one of the oldest compounds in Lusaka, the school was established in 1966, two years after independence and it is still delivering quality education for the girl-child in Zambia. The school boasts of a clean environment and properly manicured lawns, fully mature trees which provide excellent shade all around the school, and above all, extremely well cultured girls.

Perhaps the greatest motivation for this programme comes from a reminder about the journey that women have made, and about the journey that still lies ahead. It is important to inspire and motivate girls at an early stage of their lives, in all possible ways. Role models are crucial. However, the most important thing for children is to have the support and encouragement to achieve the things that no one else like them has done before.

All of the mentors agreed that there should be no limitations on what is possible or what girls can achieve; and the more we encourage this, the better leaders, scientists, doctors, teachers, and presidents we will cultivate for Zambia and the world.

girl-child mentoring
© UNICEF Zambia/2013/Nalungwe
Mentors and mentees rise for the National Anthem before the keynote address by the guest of honour in the school hall

“You just never know where the next great thinker or leader might come from, and the fact is that by encouraging all to achieve their potential, we are making a better world. The insights and thinking that come from different people with different perspectives are maximized when we are able to give everyone the opportunity to learn and dream,”said Ms. Morgan.

Ms. Evelyn Mbulo, UNICEF Zambia’s Reports Officer,  also participated as a mentor. I asked about what this means to her; 

“Mentoring ought to be an on-going process, an intrinsic part of programming to constantly remind our young girls about their future and who they want to become. They ought to draw inspiration from those who once were like them, who dreamed, who stayed focused and who now have successfully realized their dreams. To mentors who have been there, it is your business in as much as it is mine to inspire and help drive these, our young girls, to the destination they fear they might not reach,” Mbulo said.

In closing the session the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Gender and Child Development Annie Sinyangwe thanked UNICEF for coming up with such a programme and mentioned that it marked the beginning of her ministry’s collaboration with UNICEF in this area.

“Always bear in mind that you can only realize your dreams of what you want to be in the future through education, self-discipline, and determination. Above all, you must put God first in whatever you do. Respect your parents, guardians, teachers, and all adults within your communities. I further wish to urge you to refrain from sex, alcohol, and drug abuse as these vices can spoil your future,“ Mrs. Sinyangwe said.

In a vote of thanks, grade 11 pupil Onus Phiri thanked the mentors for their time and invited everyone to return to the school for another session so that more girls can benefit from the experience of interacting with mentors from different backgrounds.

Personally it was an amazing time for all us and I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the mentors that as educators today, the true measure of the significance of what we have started is how committed the girls of Matero Girls will be in terms of citizenship. Do they have the energy, the enthusiasm, and the passion that compels them to make a difference in the world outside their own needs? Do they have the critical-thinking skills and courage to have a voice, to play a meaningful role in society, and to challenge the status quo in order to reach their dreams?



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