Zambian Girls 2030 Internships - a personal story

Empowering girls with professional experience

Tiwine Muchipa
Girl in mask examines machine
24 March 2021

Sylvia Mweetwa, 20, lives with her grandparents in the rural part of Choma District in Zambia’s Southern Province.

“When I was in Grade 9 my father wanted to marry me off saying it was a waste of resources to continue going to school,” said Sylvia. “At that point, I felt my life had come to a standstill. I still wanted to go to school and believed I would make it to Grade 10. With limited options on the way forward I decided to run away to my grandparents and start part time work in people’s gardens and farms as a way to support myself in school,” said Sylvia.

“This posed a slight delay in my grades as my classmates have completed secondary school by now. This did not stop me from pushing. I managed to write my Grade 9 eventually and made it to Grade 10. I am currently in Grade 11 at Mboole Primary and Secondary school where I am the chairperson of the career club.”

“Being picked for the Girls 2030 internship programme was very exciting as I was not so sure of what to expect at first. Coming to Mawaggali Trades has been the best experience of my life so far. As I was coming, I never imagined meeting a number of females specializing in automotive engineering. The career is seen as a male dominated career.”

Girls next to machine part in Zambia

“I have learned a lot from my mentor, lecturer Mrs Sakala, and the female students in the course. In years to come I look forward to taking up the course and becoming one of Zambia’s best known automotive engineers.

The Zambian Girls 2030 programme: “Realising my potential” - provides an opportunity to the most vulnerable pupils to be exposed and gain career inspiration. In December 2020, 25 girls in Choma District and 25 in Kasama District took part in internships with local professional mentors. Phase 2 of Zambian Girls 2030 programme was implemented in 150 schools with 5,560 girls in school clubs, 256 girls attending career camps and 50 internship placements.

“Having mentored Sylvia through the internship has been amazing,” said Mrs Laizah Siyanganga Sakala. “She is very inquisitive and a good learner. The internship is a good opportunity for exposure and inspiration for the girls from rural areas. I am certain that moving forward Sylvia and the other girls will set their bar high to ensure they maintain good grades and eventually pursue their dream careers,” said Mrs Sakala.

The girls internship placements are based on career plans, though unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, girls that had a health-related career choice were placed according to their second career options.

The programme is run under the Ministry of General Education with UNICEF support, and with implementing partner Restless Development, with generous funding from the London Stock Exchange Group.

- Tiwine Muchipa- Communications and Youth Engagement Associate, UNICEF Zambia