By Fides Magige and Saraphiner Urio 

In September 2023, two secondary schools in the cocoa-farming Kyela district of Tanzania, Matema Beach Secondary School and Mwaya Secondary School, celebrated the graduation of their Empowered Girls and Enlightened Boys club members. These ceremonies were marked by a rich tapestry of activities and events that showcased the accomplishments, aspirations, and empowerment of the students. 

Graduation day begins at sunrise when students and teachers meet to begin food preparation and decorating for the grand event creating an atmosphere of celebration and excitement. The ceremony commenced with the presence of esteemed guests, including local government officials, CCF farmer leadership, teachers, and graduates and students. The 160 graduates from Matema and 100 graduates from Mwaya, adorned in crisp white shirts and black skirts or trousers, processed into the ceremony exuding confidence and happiness. They sang, danced, and reveled in their memorable day.

Inspiring Presentations – Graduation ceremonies feature presentations that underscore the club members’ visions and aspirations. Students confidently shared their dreams for the future, presenting their vision mapping and affirmations. The graduates recited a moving poem about their visioning process, emphasizing their potential to make a positive impact on the world, as inspiration to the young student club members present.

The graduates presented a beautiful poem about pursuing their vision.

I’m born with potential, I will fly.

I have a dream to save the world

I have a vision so beautiful like a star,

I dream to be the moon to shine the world.

Dear graduates, we are about to close the chapter. 

Let’s face new chapters with confidence and courage. We will fly.

We are champions of our vision.

In a scripted dramatic skit addressing the issue of early marriage, students acted to portray a young girl who, with the support of the Empowered Girls Club and school administration, stood up for her right to continue her education despite pressure to marry at age 13. This play blended serious issues with humor to showcase the impact of EG and EB support on the lives of students.

Another skit demonstrated the academic performance at schools with and without the Empowered Girls and Enlightened Boys Clubs. It illustrated how these clubs contributed to improved academic excellence.

Empowering Menstrual Hygiene – A skit at Matema Beach Secondary School provided an insightful look at the transition from disposable pads to reusable cloth pads, highlighting the positive impact of addressing menstrual hygiene needs. It was an exciting moment as the teachers and students launched reusable Salama pads as the project has clearly benefited from support by the both girls and boys clubs – an amazing example of improvement in gender equality perception. 

“When we got to form one we managed to join the Empowered Girls Club, we have received enough training on safe menstruation but we have also benefited from being given disposable pads for 4 years, they have been a great help to us. But seeing the importance of safe menstruation for a girl today, the Empowered Girls Club is going to launch reusable pads (Salama pads) which have more benefits compared to disposable pads. Among the benefits is that a girl can use this pad for 2 years without expiring. We are very grateful for taking care of us and making sure we get the best needs when we are on our menstrual days”. says Rahel, Empowered Girl.

They finished their presentation with their wonderful menstrual health motto with the words: 

“My period is my Value.

My period is my health 

My period is my cleanness 

My period is my happiness”.

Guests and Speeches – The ceremony invited speeches from various guests. A representative from the local government expressed gratitude for the positive changes observed in the children, attributing it to the education they received through the clubs. Matema Beach Secondary School Head Master commended the clubs for their role in reducing student pregnancies and the support provided to students through school supplies and hygiene gifts.

Cocoa Farmer and leader of the CCF cooperative, Mama Mpoki, congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to focus on their studies to achieve their dreams. She also shared her desire to see clubs like these in all of the schools across Kyela.

Recognition & Supply Gifts – After the speeches, students were honored with prizes for their excellence in various categories. All students, in both Matema Beach and Mwaya schools, received gifts such as soap, toothpaste, underwear, and pads for girls, further emphasizing the clubs’ commitment to the well-being of students.

Madam Saraphiner surprised the graduates with a congratulatory cake, fostering a sense of togetherness and celebration. The day continued with lunch, as guests and students savored the food and drinks. The festivities continued as Enlightened Boys and Empowered Girls students celebrated with music and photographs, ending the graduation ceremonies on a high note.

The 2023 graduation ceremonies at Matema Beach and Mwaya Secondary Schools were joyful celebrations of empowerment, aspirations, and education. These clubs have made a significant impact on the students, helping them envision and work toward a brighter future. The combined efforts of teachers, students, and supportive guests have brought the power of education and empowerment to the forefront, promising a better tomorrow for these young minds.