By Nicole Banister, Partnerships Coordinator 

Of the 2.7 million young people Grassroot Soccer (GRS) has reached globally with comprehensive health and life skills education, 55% are girls. 

In September 2020, GRS launched a partnership with Our Gorongosa to further support programming for adolescent girls and young women in Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique. Through the sale of coffee and other merchandise, Our Gorongosa supports the people, wildlife, and rainforest of GNP. Through the Park’s dedicated Girls Clubs, girls are encouraged to remain in school through support to complete their studies, solutions for how to delay pregnancy, and advocating for an end to child marriages. 

Today, on International Day of the Girl Child, GRS celebrates the game changers who make holistic, informative, and fun programming for girls possible. Game changers like Vilma Mugwagwa, the Girls Club Manager of GNP, are empowering girls to accomplish their goals in life while simultaneously curbing gender-based violence and delaying sexual debut. 

Courtesy of Vilma Mugwagwa.

GRS hosted a virtual conversation with Vilma to chat about GNP’s Girls Clubs, her work supporting young girls, and how she’s celebrating International Day of the Girl today, October 11. 

GRS: Tell us about yourself and your background.

Vilma: [I have] a little over 10 years of experience working in community development with a focus on girls and women’s empowerment. I’m passionate about gender equality, education/capacity building, and income generation. I’m also a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)–Mandela Washington Fellow. 

A fun fact about me is that I met the Former President and First Lady of the United States of America–Barack and Michelle Obama. I felt grateful and humbled for being in the presence of such inspiring leaders and [I was] also inspired by their commitment to promote positive change, and to give voices and opportunities to the marginalized/discriminated groups of people–youth, girls, and women included.

GRS: Tell us about your work at GNP and the Girls Clubs. What’s your role? 

Vilma: My role is to coordinate and manage the implementation of Girls Clubs program–I develop, plan, and monitor the interventions that will lead us toward the main objectives which are to keep girls in school, [and to] develop their reading and life skills.

GRS: Why do you think it’s important to work with and support girls?

Vilma: Through many years, women and girls have been neglected the right to fully participate, engage [or] decide in important aspects of their own lives, the lives of their families, their communities, and the society in general. It’s important that we change that. Supporting girls is one of the key strategies to ensure that they reach their full potential and therefore actively contribute to the creation of a better future for themselves, the world they currently live in, and for future generations.

GRS: The theme of the 2020 International Day of the Girl is “My voice, our equal future.” What does this mean to you?

Vilma: For me, ‘My Voice, our equal future’ means that we need to enable and hear the voices of girls to create a better and brighter future. We cannot reach the Sustainable Development Goals with only half of the population being heard and making the decisions–which is why gender is a cross-cutting issue.

Courtesy of Vilma Mugwagwga 

GRS: What would you say to a young girl reading this right now?

Vilma: To the girl reading this, I would like to tell you that the world is waiting for you. You have something special that only you can do. You might not know or feel that now, but only by focusing on your future and your dream will you be able to make your world–our world–a little better. Make your voice heard. Remember that you are important and ‘estamos juntos’ – we’re together.

GRS: Anything else you’d like to share?

Vilma: It’s important on this day that we remember that International Day of the Girl was not created because girls are privileged; on the contrary, it was created to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face worldwide.

The actions to address those challenges and support the girls are also beneficial for boys and men. Everyone should embrace them. Which is why our interventions in Girls Clubs is gradually involving boys and men from our communities to become our allies in this process of change towards gender equality.

I would like to thank GRS and all our partners who are actively contributing for a better future of the girls from Mozambique and Gorongosa Buffer Zone in Particular.

To further support girls in Mozambique and beyond through the partnership between Grassroot Soccer and Gorongosa National Park, purchase Our Gorongosa coffee using the promo code “GRS.” When you enter code “GRS” at checkout using this link, 5% of proceeds support GRS, and 100% of proceeds support girls.