By Jessica Love
Last fall, a 45-year-old father of four named Moses turned on the radio at his home in Arusha, Tanzania. Searching for his favorite station, he heard the introduction to a program about girls that he would later describe as ‘ear-catching.’ He wanted to know what would come next.
He had stumbled upon “Safari ya Binti” (A Girl’s Journey), a pilot radio program created by GLAMI (Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative), a Tanzanian NGO that runs extracurricular mentoring programs for secondary school girls.
In a culture that too often reinforces the narrative that girls are weak, less important than boys, and that being confident and determined is rude, GLAMI is working to upend this narrative. Matching girls with university-educated Tanzanian female mentors, GLAMI shows their scholars they have the power to write their own futures – and then they teach the skills needed to do just that.
As a result, girls enrolled in these mentoring programs are more likely to graduate secondary school, attend university, and create positive change in their communities.
Safari ya Binti provided a way for mentors and scholars to connect when in-person sessions had been scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Airing weekly on Saturdays for four months, GLAMI mentors presented lessons that aligned with themes in their core curriculum, such as personal leadership, resilience, study skills, and community leadership.
The father of one son and three daughters, the radio programming was of deep interest to Moses. “The fact that a lot of girls drop out of school because of pregnancy, which is disappointing to us as parents, got me thinking that girls are weak and dependent, and that there is nothing they can do better than taking care of a family.”
Listening to Safari ya Binti, Moses heard inspiring female presenters and he heard girls asking smart questions. This was a program his entire family should hear, he decided, and so they all began to gather weekly to listen together.
“I came to realize that girls are capable of doing what boys can do, there is no limit to what they can do. I noticed this by listening to the girl’s testimonies on the sessions,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one to experience this shift in attitude. GLAMI found that a number of other focus group respondents also experienced significant changes in the way they viewed their daughters, and in the way girls viewed themselves.
“I had doubts that women can be leaders but right now I am beginning to believe that girls are born leaders. I even begin to see that my wife is capable of making huge decisions for the family’s well-being,” shared Balongo, the father of a GLAMI scholar, who listened to the radio show.
Nengarivo, who is enrolled in GLAMI’s mentoring program, shared: “There were times after the school opened when I thought that the world was coming to an end. Coronavirus was a threat, and I had a lot of dreams that I wanted to achieve, but an outbreak of Corona made me lose a lot of hopes given the fact that [GLAMI] mentors were visiting us only twice a month, unlike the usual timetable.
But when Safari ya Binti came I was really motivated to start afresh and have my hopes again. …I consider myself a change maker and I believe that I am a leader, I am not afraid of taking any action to save my community.”
This year, United Nations’ World Radio Day celebrates evolution, innovation, and connection at a time when radio has presented perhaps one of the most important lifelines in recent memory. But for so many organizations, radio presented opportunity.
Radio inspired creative approaches like Safari ya Binti. Radio enabled organizations to stay connected to the communities they serve from a safe distance. And radio allowed the chance to reach wider audiences with messages that inspired, informed, and changed attitudes.
The only downside of radio? Lillian, the mother of one girl enrolled in GLAMI programming put it best:
“I just wish that everything that was discussed could be repeated so as the new listeners could learn everything.”
The link to a promotional video created for the program: https://youtu.be/z8yAyh3qlY0