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I want to be a lawyer. In today’s world, there is so much injustice, and most of the time the ones who are marginalized are the ones who are missing their justice

For 25 years, the 16th of June has marked the Day of the African Child — a time for the world to reflect on the grave injustices inflicted on the most marginalized children and the incredible potential wasted every day that a child is denied his or her right to a quality education, and a safe and independent life.

CAMFED celebrates the power and determination of young people across Africa every single day. Meet Sharifa from Bagamoyo, Tanzania, our Day of the African Child blogger. An orphan who had to depend on teachers for food, she could easily have been among the 28 million girls who are left behind, unable to access an education. Today she is cheeky and confident (“I am just charming,” she says of her popularity among children at her school), and a children’s rights advocate in the making. Her resilience and strength come from the network of support CAMFED galvanizes around the most marginalized — with parents, alumnae, teachers, officials and traditional leaders giving whatever time and resources they possess to change the context for children to learn and thrive.

Sharifa in front of her classroom in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. (Photo: Daniel Hayduk/CAMFED)

My name is Sharifa. I am 17 years old. I am the second born in a family of three children. My father died when I was two years old. After my father died I lived with my mother until I was seven years old, then my aunt came and took me to stay with her because mother could no longer support me. After some time my aunt’s husband died, and life in the house changed, and it became very difficult for my aunt to support me, so I moved back to the village to stay with my grandmother. My mother moved to the Northern part of Tanzania, and when she moved there she gave birth to another child. The child was born premature and was physically disabled. In 2011 my mother came back with the child. My mother was very sick with different illnesses and soon she died.

I used to depend on my primary school teachers. I would say, ‘Today we don’t have anything to eat.’ They would be able to help me.

Life was difficult living with my grandmother because she does not have a job and depends on her children to support her, especially with food. Sometimes they did not send any money so we often went hungry. I used to depend on my primary school teachers. I would say, ‘Today we don’t have anything to eat.’ They would be able to help me.

I passed the primary school exam and was selected to go to secondary education. When I told my grandmother she said to me, ‘If food is a problem, how can I afford education?’ I stayed at home for some time. My friends who had gone to secondary school were saying, ‘Go to the school. Tell them you need support.’ So I went to the school and told them but they said I have to wait until they get sponsors, someone to support. One day my friends came home and told me, ‘We heard your name at the school gathering today. You need to go to school!’ I was surprised. How could they call out my name when I’m not even a student yet at that school? My friends told me twice that my name had been called. ‘We have been told to find you and tell you to come to school.’ So I said to my grandmother, I just need a skirt, a shirt and shoes, and then I’ll figure out how to go to school.

If food is a problem, how can I afford education?

My grandmother said ‘I wish I could help but I can’t.’ So I went to the school to speak to the Teacher Mentor, Madame Ngereza, and she said, ‘We can raise funds here at the school to get you the uniform and some other school supplies and you’ll start school.’

As a CAMFED scholar, and with the help of a local Parent Support Group, Sharifa receives the support she needs to board at her school. (Photo: Daniel Hayduk/CAMFED)

When I started school and got CAMFED support they wanted me to stay at the school dormitory because of my family situation, but I have some health issues to I explained to my Teacher Mentor that I have to eat certain food. I cannot stay in school. I have to stay at home. The Teacher Mentor called the Parent Support Group and explained to them the diet I need and so the parents agreed to provide me 5000 shillings (about $2.28) every week — half I take for my diet and half goes to take care of my disabled sibling.

I also have problems with my eye sight and when I told the Teacher Mentor she involved the Parent Support Group and they contributed money to send me to the hospital to check my eyes, and they also paid for my glasses.

Sharifa with her classmates Grace (left) and Catherine (right) and their Teacher Mentor Regina Ngereza (Photo: Daniel Hayduk/CAMFED)

I am lucky today because I have people fighting for my right. I am getting an education. But there are so many children out there who do not have the privilege I have been given. As an advocate of children’s rights, I will make sure every child’s right is given.

I want to be a lawyer. In today’s world, there is so much injustice, and most of the time the ones who are marginalized are the ones who are missing their justice. I want to be a lawyer because I want to fight for the rights of the women, the children, and the oppressed people in my community.

My first focus would be to children. For example I am lucky today because I have people fighting for my right. I am getting an education. But there are so many children out there who do not have the privilege I have been given. As an advocate of children’s rights, I will make sure every child’s right is given.

Sharifa and her classmates, Grace and Catherine, are secondary scholars at a CAMFED partner school in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. (Photo: Daniel Hayduk/CAMFED)

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