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Rapariga Biz sets girls on a more prosperous and healthy path in Mozambique

25 October 2017
A new mentor in Angoche District, Nampula, speaks out about gender roles in mentor training. © UNFPA Mozambique

MOMA DISTRICT, Nampula“Girls and women’s voices have been shut down. We don’t hear them. As a mentor I hope to contribute to a change in the position of girls and women in my community, and help girls find a prosperous and healthy path,” says Tocosana Carlos Jacinto, 14. 

Tocosana, who dreams of becoming a doctor one day, is saddened to see many girls in her community in Moma District pregnant or already mothers while still children.

The mentors’ training aims to transform secondary school girls into change agents in their communities.

She is one of 1637 new mentors trained for the government-led programme ‘Rapariga Biz’, which is supported by UNFPA, UNESCO, UNICEF and UN Women, and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).  

“The mentors’ training aims to transform secondary school girls into change agents in their communities,” says Won Young Hong, UNFPA a.i. Representative.

The training is led by the youth association Coalizao and involves mentorship, sexual and reproductive health and rights, life skills, communication approaches, leadership and participation. With the latest training of new mentors over the past few months, Rapariga Biz is now present in seven districts in Nampula and Zambezia provinces.

Mentors redefine role of girls

“I want to be a mentor to help diminish the vulnerabilities of girls in my community and to be someone they can come to,” says Maria Luisa Adelino, from Mocuba in Zambezia province.

The reality faced by adolescent girls in Mozambique is often harsh and unsafe. In some cases, sociocultural practices and norms reduce girls and young women’s opportunities to participate in decision making on issues affecting their lives. When it comes to their families’ economic difficulties, girls are often the ones to carry the heaviest burden; many are married off as children, while some are forced into prostitution, and many experience sexual violence – even at school. As a consequence of some of these ills, 46 per cent of adolescent girls between 15-19 years are pregnant or already mothers.

I hope to inspire girls to open their hearts and share the difficulties they are going through.

Many girls are transformed by the Rapariga Biz mentors’ training and start to believe in themselves:

“I hope to inspire girls to open their hearts and share the difficulties they are going through. I want them to be courageous enough to voice what they want,” says Esmeralda Calitos Rafael, 15, who has learned to open up and express herself through the Rapariga Biz training.

Rapariga Biz: a space to empower

The mentors form the heart of the integrated approach of Rapariga Biz:

“They play a critical role in the lives of the girls as role models, advisors, sisters, supporters and friends in the difficult transition between childhood and adolescence,” says Ana Dove, National Coordinator, Coalizao.

Now I feel I am somebody in my community. Through Rapariga Biz I have changed the lives of [girls] and the situation of girls in Mozambique.

The mentors facilitate weekly sessions over a period of four months with 30 of the most vulnerable girls aged between 10 and 19 years, in a ‘safe space’ identified by the girls themselves in the community where they live. Here they share and discuss issues relevant to their lives, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and they learn life skills such as confidence, communication and decision making.

“Now I feel I am somebody in my community. Through Rapariga Biz I have changed the lives of [girls] and the situation of girls in Mozambique. [It] just makes me want to be a better mentor,” says Albertina, from Quelimane in Zambezia province. She was trained last year at the onset of Rapariga Biz.

"The mentors are Mozambique's future leaders,” says Alberto Nkutumula, the Minister of Youth and Sports, who leads Rapariga Biz from within the Government of Mozambique.

Read more about Rapariga Biz.

- Helene Christensen