Girls empowering girls

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Rozaria Memorial Girls present a football to Phumzile Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, at YCSW61 @Photo: Eleni Mourdoukoutas
Rozaria Memorial Girls present a football to Phumzile Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, at YCSW61. Photo: Eleni Mourdoukoutas

The heart of the Rozaria Memorial Trust Girls Clubs, a Zimbabwe-based non-governmental organization that invests in women and girls in poor communities, is best seen through an unusual gift that some club members presented to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director.

The young girls handed an elated Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka a soccer ball at a Youth Forum marking the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 61), in March at the UN headquarters in New York.

A soccer ball symbolizes young people’s drive to achieve gender equality, says Luci Chikowero, the proud mother of 12-year-old Maka, who did the presentation at the UN. Ms. Chikowero adds that, “The clubs are tied to SDG 5 [gender equality], because it is girls empowering girls to make a difference.”

Motivated by a desire for social change, Zimbabwean-American Maka established the first Girls Club in the US. She had learned that girls in rural Zimbabwe did not play sports because of a lack of sporting materials. An avid athlete herself, Ms. Chikowero began saving her allowance until she had enough to buy 13 soccer uniforms.

She then wrote to Adidas, a sporting company, requesting soccer balls. Adidas gladly sent some balls, which Maka later donated to Magaya Secondary School in Rmurehwa, Zimbabwe. The students later established the school's first female soccer team.

Young Rozaria Memorial Trust Girls Clubs members have volunteer mentors and, sometimes, tuition is paid for those who cannot afford it. The young girls themselves embroil in social issues, particularly lending their tiny but powerful voices to advocacies against child marriage by fostering awareness and providing mentorship at the community level in order to thoroughly uproot traditional mindsets.

The Clubs have branches in a few countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe, and in the UK and the US. Each branch focuses on its goal of educating girls, members and nonmembers, on how to make a difference in their respective communities, regardless of funds availability.

“The whole point is that we as girls and as people can self-fund for other young people,” Farirai Gumbonzvanda, 23, told Africa Renewal. Ms. Gumbonzvanda is one of girls’ mentors and a Rozaria Memorial Trust Europe Representative. She adds: “The young girls sell lemonades on the streets and use some of their savings to support other girls. Going to the movies is like 23 USD; sending a girl to school for one term is 10 USD.”

Ultimately, the young members of the Girls Clubs believe that inspiring girls to support and empower one another is the key to achieving lasting social change.