“I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.” Queen Rania of Jordan
Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.
Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.
In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.
This month, Kurandza has launched the #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 100 girls to school in Mozambique.
What is the campaign?
In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 100 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.
For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.
I have just signed on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.
Why girls education?
I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.
“When a girl gets an education, she’s able to dream…” by Elisabetta Colabianchi
In the rural villages of Guijá District in southern Mozambique, it’s rare for girls to complete high school, let alone primary school. College isn’t even an option. Many girls drop out of school because their parents can’t pay for school costs or because they get pregnant.
Studies have shown that when girls go to school, they have less of a chance of contracting HIV, becoming a child bride, or having early pregnancies. They’ve also shown that when girls go to school, they have more confidence, higher self-esteem, better access to health care, and increased income.
After working in the rural villages of Guijá District for 6 years (3 years with the Peace Corps, and 3 years with Kurandza), I’ve seen first hand the difference that an education makes. The women artisans of Kurandza were able to send their kids to school, pay for all school supplies, books, uniforms, backpacks, and transportation, and now these kids are flourishing. They are continuing to study, learning the national language, Portuguese, and are passing their classes. They are also learning life skills and positive behaviors related to responsibility, respect, and work ethic. Since Percina and I have seen such a success with these children going to school, we wanted to help even more children through a new educational project.
We decided to start with the goal of bringing education to 100 girls. We chose to focus on girls because when parents have funds for only one child to go to school, they often choose to send the boys. We chose to start with 100 girls because that’s the number of the most vulnerable girls—orphans or children of unemployed parents, it’s a manageable number with the size of our grassroots non-profit at the moment, and the sponsorship of 100 girls will employ 10 local women to run our holistic education program.
The holistic education program will include after school tutoring, empowerment workshops, health education, parent-teacher conferences, and extra-curricular activities like art, sports, and theatre. The empowerment workshops will talk about gender equality, self-esteem, and self-defense. We wanted to include a holistic education program to create a safe, supportive space for our girls. Often times girls don’t find support with their parents, since they themselves have never gone to school. When their children want to drop out because the classes are difficult, their parents support that decision and tell them that they can get married instead. When our girls feel difficulty, we want to be there for them, and help support them through the hardships through counseling and tutoring. We also want their parents to be on board, that’s why we’ve created parent-teacher conferences and activities to include the parents more in their child’s education.
If you would like to join our movement and send a girl to school, you can become a monthly sponsor here: www.kurandza.org/take-action
Tell me about your childhood. Where did you grow up? How many siblings do you have? What did you family do for an income?
I was born in Mozambique’s capital of Maputo, and when I was 8, my parents separated and I moved to a rural village in Gaza Province in the District of Guijá. The village where I grew up was 12 kilometers away from the District Capital. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, I am the middle child. My mom used to go to her farm everyday to cultivate the land for our livelihood.
When did you start school? What was your favorite subject?
I started studying in Maputo when I was 7 years old. Then when my parents separated and I moved to Guijá District, there wasn’t an opening for me at the school, so I had to wait until the next year to start going to school again. My favorite subject was Math.
You eventually moved and had to walk 10 miles to school. How long did it take to get there and back each day? Why did you continue?
I needed to walk 12 kilometers (over 7 miles one way) to arrive at school each day because I didn’t have access to transportation and I wanted to study. It took one in a half or two hours to get there depending on the speed that I was going, and it was the same amount of time to come home. I continued to study because I loved studying.
You were the first girl in your village to finish high school. How did that make you feel? What difference did it make on your life?
Yes, I was the first person to graduate from high school and I felt like a heroine. It made a huge difference in my life because I know who I am and I know how to relate to people and choose what’s best for me. Also, because of schooling, I was able to get a good job and realize my dream of visiting the United States.
Why is education so important especially for girls in your community?
Because with an education, these girls will be able to better their lives and they will be able to choose what’s best for them. They will also be able to avoid early pregnancies and premature marriages.
How, when and where did you meet Elisabetta?
I met Elisabetta in 2011 when she was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and we became friends. I was also her counterpart for a training that was aimed at designing our own community project, and afterwards we designed the projects that became Kurandza.
What is your role with Kurandza?
I lead and manage the women of Kurandza here in Mozambique, and I also interact with Elisabetta and pass on information from Mozambique to the United States. I’m in charge of all the operations here in Mozambique.
About Guijá, Mozambique:
Mozambique has a population of roughly 28 million and a literacy rate of only 58% for people over 15 years old. In Guijá where Kurandza works, many parents are unemployed and have no source of income leading girls to marry very young and not attend school. The rate of HIV/AIDS is the highest in the country because of the migration of men to South Africa to look for work in the mines. Also there is no high school in the village, so children who are able to study have to walk or find transportation costs to make it to the nearest high school, approximately 10 miles away.
About Kurandza’s program:
- Pays for scholarships that include: school fees, books, school supplies, transportation, backpacks, and uniforms.
- Holistic education program that includes: after school tutoring, health education, health care, warm meals, extra-curricular activities like sports, art, and theatre, empowerment workshops and lessons on confidence, self-esteem, and dreams for the future, and parent-teacher conferences.
- Employs 10 women in Mozambique including tutors, educators, counselors, and the program directors. It’s important for us to employ local women who are actually from the community where we work, and who know the culture.
- Because so many parents of our scholarship recipients never went to school, it’s important for us to have regular meetings with them, so that they can be supportive of their children’s education.