Lilian was born in a rural part of Tanzania. Her single mother worked hard to support Lilian through primary school and beyond, but the family faced many challenges. She had a strong role model in her mother, but seeing how women and girls were often subjected to exclusion, discrimination, harassment and abuse, Lilian was fearful for her future.
During secondary school Lilian was identified for CAMFED support, which is offered to children who are most marginalized and at risk of dropping out. She was provided with secondary school fees, uniform, books and sanitary pads, as well as guidance from a specially trained CAMFED Teacher Mentor. With this wrap-around support, Lilian thrived at school and was chosen as the Head Girl.
“I believe education has changed everything in my life. I know my rights, I have my choices, I have confidence to do anything.”
In 2014, when she graduated high school, Lilian joined the CAMFED alumnae association, CAMA. From this moment, with a powerful peer support network around her, Lilian was determined to help uphold rights and create equal opportunities for women and children.
Through CAMA, Lilian has participated in different training schemes on skills including leadership, business and sexual and reproductive health. Lilian and her CAMA sisters then share their knowledge and expertise with their community members. They are particularly engaged in supporting more vulnerable children at school by providing uniforms, shoes and other essentials, as well as assisting community members to improve school facilities including toilets and boarding hostels.
“My biggest area of expertise is community mobilization, and standing to fight for the rights of others, especially children.”
In July 2014, Lilian started three months of national service with Tanzania’s Ministry of Defence. Afterwards, she progressed to tertiary education and achieved a degree in Law Enforcement from the University of Dar Es Salaam. Throughout this time Lilian continued to develop as a leader, taking part in courses on youth empowerment and entrepreneurship. She won several awards for her academic and extra-curricular achievements, recognizing her prowess in areas from women’s leadership (Gender Training Institute) to Chinese language studies (Confucius Institute).
After completing her degree, Lilian started volunteering with CAMFED, helping fellow CAMA members to complete online applications for tertiary education and to access government higher learning loans. In total, she was able to support 37 CAMA members from the Morogoro region.
In November 2017, Lilian was appointed by CAMFED as a District Programs Coordinator. In this role she works closely with the local CAMFED Community Development Committees (CDCs), which include parents, teachers and CAMA members, on the implementation of CAMFED Tanzania’s program. She is involved in planning and implementing their strategic activity, as well as monitoring and evaluation of operations in the district. Lilian also supports CAMA members in their endeavors in higher education, employment and enterprise, strengthening their network as a vehicle for young women’s empowerment.
Lilian at her desk in the CAMFED office in Singida District, Tanzania. (Photo: Khalfani Juma)
“Coming from poverty, CAMA members understand the struggle for girls’ education and can share best practice in bringing change to our communities.”
Lilian has won respect and admiration across the region for her positive impact on education, through her philanthropy, activism and leadership. Together with other CAMA members Lillian encouraged community members to fundraise for a secondary school hostel, for students who live far away and are at risk of dropping out of education. They raised five million Tanzanian shillings (equivalent to about 2,000 USD). At another school, Lilian helped to mobilize a Parent Support Group to contribute to and build a school fence, creating a safer environment for students, particularly girls. As a result the school’s Headmistress invited Lilian to be the guest of honor at their graduation ceremony.
Lilian speaking to the school community about preventing dropout
Another of Lilian’s most notable achievements is to have established Child Protection Clubs in 20 of CAMFED’s partner schools. These clubs are moderated by CAMFED Teacher Mentors and CAMA Learner Guides, who identify students at risk of harassment and abuse.
Lilian’s degree in Law Enforcement holds her in good stead to work together with Teacher Mentors to bring justice for the most vulnerable children, often girls, and to return them to school in cases of absenteeism or dropout.
Having been acutely aware of the challenges for her community from an early age, Lilian is now hopeful for the future. Through her work with CAMA and CAMFED she is seeing positive change and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, all underpinned by inclusive education.
“My priority for the future is juvenile justice, so that children will understand their rights, have a voice and have confidence.”
Lilian is a role model and leader of change, paving the way for other women and girls to step into positions of authority. Together with thousands of other young women in the CAMA network, Lilian represents a powerful new force for development.