In the spirit of changing lives, empowering women and girls as well as pursuing the attainment of the sustainable development girls, one young woman, Joy Rukanzakanza is making attempts to change the lives of young girls in rural Filabusi.
The name ‘Qeqesha’ is a word which means ‘graduate’ has been derived from the fact that girls are limited such that they fail to graduate, hence project graduate is meant to ensure girls graduate.
Her Zimbabwe’s 2016 Blogging Fellow, Vimbai Chinembiri had a chat with the US based student on her empowerment initiative dubbed, Project Qeqesha.
VC: In a few words who is Joy Rukanzakanza?
JR: I am a second year student at Bryn Mawr College in the USA, doing a double major in Political Science and International Studies there. I graduated from Sizane High school in 2013 and thereafter became a Joshualite, where my passion for community engagement activities grew. Since then, I have been involved in community work ranging from blogging about teenage pregnancies, starting movements as well as participating in anti-sexual harm initiatives in College.
VC: Can you tell us more about Project Qeqesha and what inspired the idea?
JR: Project Qeqesha is a girl empowerment venture, aimed at facilitating better access to education for the girls through initiating and managing sustainable projects, facilitating access to reusable sanitary wear as well as providing career guidance and mentorship platforms. So far we have worked with Filabusi High School where we are building a chicken run to be manned by a girl empowerment club at the school and have conducted the mentorship and career guidance sessions. We are in the process of donating reusable sanitary wear and we are hoping to widen the project’s sphere of influence with time. Project Qeqesha is an idea I came up with when I entered a competition to design a project that fosters peace in the community, courtesy of the Davis Projects for Peace, which funds one hundred students in the US who wish to implement such initiatives and fortunately enough, Qeqesha was successful.
VC: How many people are working on the project? Are they paid staff, or volunteers?
JR: I have engaged organisations such as Yield, Lead Us Today, The Rotaract Club of Matopos, Youth Press Bureau, National Aids Council and MyPads Zimbabwe. During the mentorship program, I received assistance from eight facilitators who volunteered to participate in the project. We have also engaged paid staff like the builders and communications personnel.
VC: How are you running the project from America?
JR: I’m currently in Zimbabwe but I have hope that the facilitators I have worked with have the capacity to run the project even in my absence.
VC: What kind of activities will you carry out under this project?
JR: Since we want to create an incentive for the girls to access education, and bring an end to absentism from school days due to lack of sanitation, we will conduct mentorship and career guidance sessions, as well as donate reusable sanitary pads. The pads we will donate are easy to wash and clean. This is in comparison to makeshift methods like cow dung and fabrics that girls often resort to. These unsafe methods eventually cause problems to the reproductive system.
VC: Have you started all these activities, if not at what stage are you in the planning?
JR: I am done with the mentorship part and about to complete the chicken run as well as the sanitary wear production. So far we have donated reusable pads to 374 girls and our fowl run has been plastered.
VC: What are the funding opportunities for the activities and prospects for sustainability?
The grant I received from the Davis Projects for Peace, has been used to carry out the project. For sustainability purposes, the chicken run which will be under a girl empowerment club soon to receive training on project management, and is meant to sustain Project Qeqesha at Filabusi high. Proceeds from the chicken run will ensure that female students do not run out of sanitary wear and also assist female students in their academic needs including stationery and eventually uniforms when the project has grown bigger. For purposes of transparency and accountability, the Rotaract club of Matopos will oversee the Project’s progress.
VC: We wish Joy all the success in implementing and sustaining this project which while instrumental to the sexual and reproductive health needs of young girls in Zimbabwe is key to economic development as well. This is one initiative that will not only keep girls in schools on each day of the month but will eradicate the disadvantages they have had to endure compared to their male counterparts.
Main image Joy Rukanzakanza addressing students during one of Project Qeqesha’s program
All images from Vimbai Chinembiri