As a child growing up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Neema Mwakalinga remembers being bounced from one relative to another. Her father did not have a job and her mother suffered from mental illness. Her luck changed when she was selected to attend Mtakuja Secondary school.
Although she had to miss several days of school because she did not always have the bus fare to get to school, Neema’s perseverance paid off and she received assistance to attend Changombe Vocational Training College for assistant lab technician training.
Today, Neema is employed with the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority and is able to afford rent to live independently. In addition to taking care of her baby, Neema supports her younger sibling’s secondary school education and also provides for her mother who is mentally ill.
Farida Mussa also grew up in Dar es Salaam and had a difficult childhood. Her mother moved back to her village as she could not afford to live in Dar es Salaam leaving Farida with her grandmother. Like Neema, Farida was selected to join Mtakuja Secondary School.
Upon graduation, Farida received support to attend a 2-year teacher training program, which helped her find employment as a third grade English teacher at Juhudi Primary School. Farida was able to save money to build a two room house. She loves her job and dreams of becoming a school administrator one day. She is currently working towards her bachelor degree in education from the Open University of Tanzania.
Both Neema and Farida were beneficiaries of the Improving Girls' Secondary Education and Employment opportunities program, an FHI 360 initiative supported by Johnson & Johnson that focuses on improving education and employment for girls in Tanzania. This includes providing internships and mentoring for girls in seven secondary schools to help bridge the gap between school and employment, and continuing to support their professional development and vocation training in fields such as nursing, community health development, hotel management and teaching.
Related: Blog - A Bold New Path to Educating Girls