Dorcasbahati Mgogwe is the Founder and Executive Director of the Girls First Initiative. This is an organization that promotes the right of girls to economic benefits and gives girls access to the opportunities, resources and skills they need to be competent and competitive in the job market, but also to be able to start their own businesses.
She studied education at the university. She defines herself as a person with a passion for working with girls to create safe spaces and sister circles where girls can be themselves without fear of being judged.
She says that while growing, she did not have such an opportunity. She likes jovial people who share values like kindness and treat others fairly. She shares her story in an interview with Citizen’s Rising Woman Initiative reporter Salome Gregory.
Question: Tell us something about your professional career, how did you get to where you are today?
Answer: Shortly after graduating, I didn’t know what to do next as the government stopped hiring. No career advice, no work experience. No business skills. I started looking for jobs. Being asked for sex in exchange for job opportunities was one of the bad experiences I’ve had. Thank God I got a job after a long struggle, but during the work I experienced emotional torture, violence and competition. This made me wonder how many girls had more or less the same experiences. I was thinking of creating a safe sister circle where girls could share their struggles. It started as a WhatsApp group where my friends and I shared our problems every day after work. It was fun and made us all feel safe. In 2020 I created an online platform (msichanakwanza.org).
Why did you choose to deal with girls? What about the young child?
Our first beneficiaries of our programs are girls because research shows that girls in Tanzania are still disadvantaged in terms of access to resources compared to their peers, boys, which affects their ability to respond to new economic opportunities.
However, we include boys in our program so they understand the importance of gender equality and help them better understand why girls need to be treated equally and given equal opportunities. We involve boys from recruitment in our team to design specific projects on gender issues for them.
Please explain more about the Girls First Initiative and why is it important to have such an organization?
The Girls First Initiative, as the name suggests, focuses primarily on girls aged 17-27 who are in secondary school, college and graduates. All of our projects and activities aim to create young women from their current status, empower them and make them role models in their communities.
We empower girls by providing them with the mentoring, resources and skills they need to tailor them to their needs to succeed in their careers. Through our mentoring program, we match girls with role models and idols they see in the communities, share and learn from each other.
We are changing social behaviors through our various awareness campaigns both online and in person. We are changing the way the community looks and see girls’ abilities in their fields, but we are also changing how girls see themselves by boosting their confidence and creating their spheres where they feel safe and secure get the best out of yourself.
Initiatives like these are important because they help create a generation free from all forms of violence and harassment, gender balanced, and role models for future generations.
Many empowerment programs focus on girls. How much do we need male participation to support women’s empowerment?
As we implement these positive actions, we usually tend to forget that boys don’t live on
Mars, they live in our heavily male dominated communities. Therefore, engaging men in women’s empowerment activities is critical to creating safe spaces for these women to be empowered. Involving men in this matter is also a way to advocate for gender equality in society. Both genders are important for the realization of a more just society where no one is judged because of their gender.
What criteria are used to coach and empower girls in the Girls First Initiative?
The main criteria we look for is age between 14 and 27 years old. Any woman of this age can have access to our platforms and projects. However, the services offered vary based on needs.
What do you think empowering women is all about?
Women already have wings just to let them fly and reach the horizon. The whole idea has been around for years.
Currently women are stronger than before, but there is no safe environment for the empowered women to fly to reach the horizon. Empowered women currently look like rude unmarried people, which is not safe for them. As we empower these women, it is important to provide them with a safe environment in which to live peacefully.
They trained 40 girls. What other examples are you proud of as the founder of the Girls First Initiative?
My goal is to train 2,000 young female entrepreneurs over the next five years and provide loans to more than 500 young women to start their businesses while providing the most adapted entrepreneurship curriculum for schools in Tanzania. I have also successfully trained 30 girls in employability skills. It is my wish to train 1,000 female graduates each year in employability skills so that they become more competent and competitive in the labor market, to ensure that young women have equal powers and opportunities to make economic decisions and act and to share in economic benefits.
What is your management style?
I would describe my management style as “leading by example”. I enjoy delegating tasks and watching someone take responsibility for project activities, but I also enjoy staying involved and inspiring my team by showing that I also work hands-on to help them.
What challenges do you encounter on your leadership path and how do you master them?
Being a young woman leading a group of people who are sometimes older than me is a bit of a challenge. But as a director, I make sure to always communicate with them and remind them of our vision and how important it is for them to stick to the rules we’ve set ourselves so that we can achieve our goals.