Betty was nervous about her daughter, Florence. Not because Florence isn’t smart or driven, but because she’s 13.
“You see, Florence’s age is very worrying for me as a mother because many young girls her age where we live are either married off or spend most of their time socializing with the wrong crowd—frequenting bars, which is a recipe for teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse and AIDS.”
“I want my children to be educated because I never had this opportunity,” says Betty. “I just want their futures to be different from mine,” she says.
Betty, like an alarming number of girls in Zambia, became pregnant and started having children as a teenager. As Florence became a teenager herself, her mother worried that she would not take her advice to do things differently and stay in school.
However, Florence has more than just her mother’s good advice going for her. She also has the mentorship and example of Miriam, her “Social Mobilizer” through Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program. “As a mentor who has been through many hardships in my own life, I understand how vulnerable young girls like Florence are,” says Miriam. “The first time I met Florence, there was something about her ability to try again and again after failing to get something right. She puts in the extra effort to be the best in her class. In that way, she reminds me of myself at her age.” says Miriam.
Social Mobilizers like Miriam come alongside girls as they make the difficult transition through secondary school. Miriam, like Florence, was once a student in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program and faced many of the same challenges that threatened to cut off her education.
“My motivation to work as a Social Mobilizer began back when I was still in high school. I used to admire how determined, passionate, courageous and composed my Social Mobilizers were and how they managed to maintain a personal relationship with each one of us. This is the same effect I hope to have on Florence and the other girls I mentor,” says Miriam.
Florence’s mother, Betty, says that with Room to Read’s support, she’s not afraid for her daughters anymore.
“Ever since Florence enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program I have noticed a change for the better,” says Betty. “For example, immediately after she leaves school every day, she makes sure to walk straight home with her younger sister. At home, after food and chores, she helps her sister with homework while at the same time trying to tackle her own. Before the Girls’ Education program came into our lives, I used to have to shout just to get her to open a book. But now it’s a whole different story. Once Florence understood our struggles to make it as a family, she appreciated what Room to Read has done and continues to do for her by providing a school uniform, books as well as life skills support—things we previously struggled to do for her. She even wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning to prepare herself and her sister for school.”
Betty beams with pride as she talks about her daughter, who aspires to become a medical doctor.
“I am confident that she will attain her dreams to become a doctor one day because she is driven and very sensitive towards the less fortunate in our society,” say Miriam.
With the support of her mother, her mentor and Room to Read behind her, there can be no doubt this determined girl can go wherever she chooses.