Masline is the head girl at her high school near Harare, Zimbabwe.
“My teachers are proud because it takes a lot to be head girl. It takes confidence, good academic performance, determination and discipline,” she says.
Masline attends a girls’ empowerment programme run by Plan International, and has been elected as one of 50 ambassadors to represent girls in her town to speak out on their rights.
Gaining confidence, becoming a leader
“When we started out I was so shy, I was not able to talk in front of people, but now I can,” she says. “We raise awareness of gender equality in our community. This experience on top of my school work has been really good for me.
“The best piece of advice I received is about the power of girls and boys working together to achieve gender equality. We understand that anything boys can do, girls can do the same. At first boys thought they were superior but now they understand we are all equal.
“I’m now confident enough to stand in front of people at school, and I take part in drama classes and I write poems. I’m part of the debate team too.”
Barriers to girls’ education
Masline often writes her poems about early marriages, an issue she is passionate about. In Zimbabwe, 1 in 3 girls are married before their 18th birthday.*
I’d like to teach secondary school pupils because girls need strong role models in life.
“Child marriages are not the bridge to success,” she says. “But we must start with the parents, we need to change their outlook. Child marriages must come to an end because they are a hindrance to girls achieving their dreams.”
The cost of education is another barrier that stops girls in Masline’s community from following their ambitions. “I’ve experienced some challenges going to school. Without the help of Plan International I couldn’t have got through secondary school. They pay 75% of my school fees,” she says.
Plan International’s research shows only 33% of girls in Zimbabwe believe they will be able to complete their education due to high costs and pressure from family members to drop out.
Role models encourage girls
However, Masline knows the importance of having educated women as positive role models to encourage girls to finish their studies and become leaders in their communities.
When girls get a quality education, they are able to lead their own lives and make decisions about their futures.
“A district administrator at school I know is educated and has great experience. She inspired me to inspire other girls to speak out. She is confident and outspoken, she breaks ceilings. After I finish my A-levels I’d like to teach secondary school pupils because girls need strong role models in life.”
Plan International’s Lennart Reinius, says, “When girls get a quality education, they are able to lead their own lives and make decisions about their futures.
“Zimbabwe has had a good education system but due to a lack of economic growth many communities struggle to send their children to school due to the cost. More girls than boys drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy or being married off to an older man. Promoting girls’ access to safe, quality education is to fulfil a human right but it’s also a key long-term investment for the country.”
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