Sunday 4 February 2018

US Funded Nileleni Project To Inspire 10,000 School Girls

By Paul Shalala
Some girls in Katete learning how to sew washable pads

Three Mandela Washington Fellows have embarked on a one year long project aimed at inspiring about 10,000 school going girls not to drop out of school.

At the time when teenage pregnancies, rape and defilement of the girl child are increasing, the United States funded Nileleni Project is expected to work with over 6,000 girls in Katete District of Eastern Province and about 4,000 girls in Pemba District of Southern Province.

Evans Nsooka, a humanitarian and a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow based in Katete will spearhead the project and his focus area will be Katete while another 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Nangamba Chintu, a journalist, will lead the project in Pemba District.

Paul Shalala is the third Mandela Washington Fellow on the project and his area of expertise will be awareness, advocacy and publicity for the public in the media.

The $22,000 project has already been launched and a number of clergy, traditional leaders and school authorities have already joined the project.


Last week during a meeting to announce the project, traditional counselors who are popularly known as alangizi, resolved to stop conducting  traditional ceremonies for young girls and instead concentrate on encouraging then to stay in schools.

The alangizi also pledged to encourage the out of school girls to go back to school.

Dorothy Mwale, a veteran alangizi trainer from Katete, who travelled to Pemba to train other alangizi, urged the people of Pemba to desist from teaching young girls explicit marital information.
Religious leaders from across Pemba District posing
for a photo after attending a meeting where the Nileleni
Project was officially introduced to them.

She advised the alangizi to only teach girls issues such as menstrual hygiene and how to take care of themelves.

"Some alangizi are being paid money by young girls' mothers to counsel them about good morals but they end up teaching the girls how to handle men of different shapes and sizes, forgetting that they are destroying the young girls," said Ms Mwale.

She further noted that after undergoing initiation ceremonies, some girls start earning a living from selling their bed skills to other interested girls,thus destroying the entire community.

And speaking on behalf of the trainee alangizi from Pemba, Agness Phiri admitted that initiation ceremonies were still happening in Pemba and that explicit marriage information was being given to girls.

She vowed that with the training she has received with her friends, this will never happen again.

Nangamba Chintu stressing a point during the training
Mrs Phiri said she appreciated the training as it was an opener to some of the vices that were being committed by alangizi. 

In total,16 alangizi were trained.

These are expected to start community clubs for out of school girls aged between 13 and 19 years.

The alangizi will also lead out in focus group discussions.

Further, life skills such as  sewing and production of washable  pads will be imparted in the girls as part of the reproductive health education and income generating activities. 

Meanwhile, a separate meeting for religious leaders from across Pemba District has also been held to sensitise them on the Nileleni Project.

The Pastors resolved to work with the alangizi in helping to identify out of school girls through youth structures and christian alangizi from their churches.

The clergymen also resolved that they will help create awareness about the program by making announcements in their local congregations on a weekly basis.


In Katete, progress has also been made in many areas.

The project has been launched across the district and with the help of World Vision, thousands of school going girls have been engaged.
Some of the girls trained in making pads

Alangizi have also heightened their participation as they lead out in focus group meetings.

School going girls have been trained in making reusable pads which is part of the menstrual hygiene being emphasised under Nileleni Project.

The hope is that when these girls have pads, they will reduce on absenteeism in class and this may impact positively on their performance in school.

"We hope that when these girls learn how to make reusable pads, they can be able to use some and sale a good number of them so that they can raise some money for themselves," said Mr Nsooka.

The materials used to make these pads are readily available in Zambia.

Once these pads are made, the girls can use them for four to six months before they can throw them away.