Interview with Raima Manjate: A female Peer Counsellor with a passion to positively influence women and girls
Being a SMS BIZ /U-Report Peer Counsellor is what I do the best. Helping people is something I enjoy doing it, I couldn’t imagine myself without helping people.
Q: Tells us about yourself
A: My name is Raima Manjate, I am 20 years old and a peer Counsellor with SMS BIZ, I am also a first-year student at the University studying Clinical psychology and last born in a family of four. Even though my parents were not highly educated they took education seriously and took us all to school, my mother wanted all of us to continue with studies up to University but she was disappointed when my elder sister gave up at 10th grade. I wanted to be an example to my neighbours and make my mum happy too
Q: How did you find your way to be such a passionate peer counsellor and women’s rights activists?
A: When I was in grade nine, my best friend and classmate dropped out of school, unfortunately, she became pregnant, when her parents realized that she was pregnant, they forced her to live with the father of her child who was older than her, this broke my heart one because I lost a friend and two because she was becoming a mother and a wife as a child. From that day I wanted to do something and got an opportunity the same year when some people came to our school looking for student to be recruited as first Aid volunteers, I took up the challenge, we were trained on many things including information about sexual and reproductive health services, if my friend got this information, she would probably have avoided getting pregnant, she would probably have finished her school.
When I finished my education, my teachers linked me up to MOBIZ, the project was promoting counselling on SRH and for young people who already started sexual activity, condoms were made available through e-vouchers. My parents did not initially approve my activism, especially on matters to do with sexual and reproductive health, sometimes I will come home with piles of condoms for distribution and my parents would think I lost my mind, they probably feared that this will encourage me to start sexual relations early but that didn't stop me, I insisted on doing my work and they finally accepted it, they are my biggest strength now, they encourage me but of course with a caution that I should pay a lot of attention to my studies!
When the SMS BIZ/U-Report began in 2015, they choose the best activists in MOBIZ, and I was one of them. Being a counsellor is what I do the best. Helping people is something I enjoy doing it, I couldn’t imagine myself without helping people, that is why I choose to study clinical psychology, then I will have a better understanding of issues affecting the people I work with. With work and studies, I have less time with friends but I like what I am doing, it gives me lots of satisfaction
Q: 7th of April is Mozambican women day, how significant is this day to you and other Mozambican young women?
A: I am glad we do have a special day to celebrate women in our country, it also reminds younger generations like me that women did contribute to the struggle for independence, we continue to play our part in building our country but we must also remember that there are still unimaginable challenges and unfair treatment girls and women undergo in Mozambique. Just to give you a glimpse, one in two girls are married before the age 18, the one that breaks my heart the most is the fact that an adolescent girl is 4 times more likely to contract HIV than a boy her age. We should use this day to reflect on this data and genuinely discuss how we can improve the lives of women and girls, there are lots of young women who suffer the same fate as my high school friend. I was discussing with my fellow peer counsellors on how we can make this day more useful to ourselves as young women, show our strength, talk about violence against women, create awareness to other people about the difficulties women face, their rights. Though we missed to do something this year, in future, we promised ourselves that we will start promotional activities by Mozambican women for Mozambican such as Health fairs and women's marches
Q: The theme for national women day is activism for empowering rural women and girls, do you see opportunities for empowering rural girls to realize their full potential
A: To start with, the potential of the rural girl has not yet been exploited fully, I think they have a lot to give and teach, sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of the programming of women's engagement are all centred around the urban areas, yet majority of the women and girls that are most vulnerable live in rural areas, if we want to guarantee the change of behaviour and practice, it is important to invest in the rural girls and women. A lot of investment still needs to be done in improving the condition of schools in rural areas, make these schools safe for girls to attend, additionally, the majority of the girls in rural areas miss out or drop out of schools, what do we do with this group? We should think of empowering them with initiatives such as life skills that will allow them to support themselves. Currently, most rural women and girls are disadvantaged, because they don’t speak Portuguese which is the official language in Mozambique, they miss out on important information that’s being disseminated in Portuguese, we often say that knowledge is power, yet we have such an important population that misses out on learning. My final message this is, “Let’s take girls to school, education will empower women and open doors for them, with an education they will have the power to fight for their rights and consequently ensure that there is equality of gender.
Q: As a young woman, what do you consider as the constraints young women face?
A: The main limitations or barriers to women are cultural norms and traditions that devalues and discriminates girls, often young girls are taught that they are inferior to men and boys and it is very complicated to deconstruct this thought when the girl is already adult. We first need to have mental freedom, additionally issues of early marriage and early pregnancy pose a major challenge for young women. Our laws need to be corrected too, a girl can be married at 16 years with parental consents, we don’t have a law that criminalizes child marriage, we only say it’s wrong, we don’t punish people who either force or marry young girls, changing this will be a good starting point
Girls often deal with the burden of domestic work, helping their mothers with household shores limiting her time to study yet the boys have all their tome to themselves. While promoting SMS BIZ, we realized most parents prefer to give phones to boys than girls, if there was only one phone ion house, the parent will most likely offer it to the boy even if the girl is older than him.
Q: What are your last words? And any advice for young women like you who would like to take up activism
A: To the young women and girls, I would like to say that they should not give up of their dreams, that they are not inferior to anybody and are able to do anything they dream and imagine of doing even going to the moon! The getaway to this however is the effort and dedication to your education. To the older generation, especially parents, I advise you to allow us to follow our dreams because there is no culture or tradition more important than our future. Let’s not promote negative and discriminatory practices in the name of culture, we make the culture and we must use it to our advantage and not against
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