Lubuto's DREAMS mentoring program field trips
They need to encourage us, giving us examples of people that have made it in life so that we get motivated. Martha Phiri, age 16, focus group participant*
When the DREAMS bus first pulled up in front of the Lubuto Library at Ngwerere, girls could not contain their excitement. Everyone wanted a chance to pose in front of it and have their photo taken. Younger children lined up for a chance just to board the bus and look inside before the older girls left on their trip.
The new bus takes girls in the DREAMS mentoring program on field trips to destinations around Lusaka, allowing them to explore new places and meet with influential women who encourage them to set and pursue educational goals.
On a recent trip to the National Assembly, girls had the opportunity to visit the Parliament Chamber. They had a question and answer session with a Parliament official where they discussed why there aren’t more women in government and how the DREAMS girls can aspire to change this in the future. After a quiz competition about Zambian government, one lucky girl, Jane Banda, won the opportunity to make a speech from the Speaker’s seat. She could barely get words out because she was crying so hard (with excitement!).
These trips are meaningful because they expose girls to new possibilities for their own futures. A girl growing up in Garden Compound (the area surrounding the Lubuto Library at Ngwerere) sees a limited range of options presented to her in her day-to-day life: she can become a housewife, sell things in a market, or be a teacher or a nurse. Her school likely does not have the resources to take her on field trips to places outside of Garden. Books in the library give girls a window into other possible futures—like Sarah Mbewe, who decided she wanted to be an engineer after reading about engineering as a career path for women-- but sometimes only seeing is believing.
Through these trips, girls are connected to a critical resource—the lived examples of real women in all spheres of life, from university students to computer programmers, Parliamentarians to telecommunications executives, who inspire the girls to dream. These women share their own stories of struggle and success with the girls, motivating them to stay focused regardless of where they come from or what they have been through. “This is 2017. There is no such thing as a job for a man or a job for a woman,” said Bernadette Deka, who inspired girls with her story of growing up as the daughter of a maid and giving birth to her own daughter at a young age before becoming the Executive Director of Zamtel (one of Zambia’s largest telecommunications companies) at age 31.
Girls were so amazed to hear that Mubeji Mwendafilumba, one of the facilitators from Asikana Network, was the only woman in her cybersecurity class that they burst into spontaneous applause during a recent field trip to the National Institute of Public Administration’s American Corner. When the girls first arrived at the American Corner some of them were too scared to even touch the shiny new Macs because they thought they would break them. But by the time they departed, membership forms for the American Corner in hand, the girls’ opinions of themselves were transformed. “She’s a computer scientist… I want to be like her,” one girl observed.
And we are confident that she can be!
*all girls' names have been changed for the purpose of anonymity