The mood meter at Makomborero Zimbabwe went up a hundred notches on Saturday 10th April 2021 when we were finally able to hold our first Girl Child session after nearly 14 months of not being able to meet!! In case you are wondering what the mood meter is, it is something that was introduced to us by our co-founder Laura Albertyn, fondly known as Mrs A. We use it often at Makomborero Zimbabwe to gauge how people are feeling before and after a meeting or a session. In the case of Girl Child, the mentees draw a face on the white board before the meeting and another after the meeting. It’s often good fun and a great way of hearing from those who wouldn’t otherwise be vocal about their feelings.
The last few reports have felt like we mostly spoke about how much preparation was going into the time when sessions could finally resume. Part of this preparation was recruiting new mentors from our past Makomborero Zimbabwe students. We were so pleased with how many past students were keen on mentoring and the excitement and dedication that they have brought into the programme.
There were some fun times to be had while we trained our mentors. Training was done online as lockdown restrictions meant gatherings were not permitted. This worked well as most mentors were able to play the recorded messages in their own time and discussions were held as a group on Whatsapp. We had a Mentor’s Quiz Night that saw existing mentors, new mentors and Makomborero staff exchange over 700 messages as we all tried to get to know each other better and equip each other for the year ahead. It was a great laugh! The prize was a bar of chocolate and it went to our trainee mentor Tadiwa.
There was much excitement amongst Makomborero staff, mentors and staff at partner schools when it was becoming clear that sessions were going to begin in March/April 2021. We had to move the start date a few times as the reality of what it would take to orchestrate everything unfolded. Our partner schools are all based in the high density areas, they have huge classes of sometimes over 60 students to one teacher. It was impossible for them to social distance and as such the students were split into two sets and took turns to go to school for two/three days a week; or half a day each set. This had a direct impact on the recruitment process of Girl Child mentees as some of the potential mentees were in different sets to the recruiting staff. We waited this process out and it paid off! We had twenty excited girls start the mentorship programme on the 10th of April and another ten start on the 17th of April.
And so it began….finally!
Our introductory session is about getting to know the girls, telling them what Makomborero is all about and making sure they understand the policies and procedures we have in place to protect them. On paper, it looks very much like a tick-box exercise but in reality, this session is worth gold! For a lot of the girls, having been forced to grow up before their time through such experiences as taking on lead roles in their families, it is the first time they get a good understanding of their rights not only as a female but as a child. Mentors do a great job of melting the ice as well as answering some tricky questions in this first session. We are 4-5 sessions in at the time of writing this report and attendance has been great, with a hundred percent at one school last week, which is rare. There was lots of excitement around the library books, which was lovely to see. Those who never thought they would get the hang of crotcheting are becoming pros. Girls who started off shy and not keen on contributing are coming out of themselves especially with the reassurance from their mentors. Snack time while someone reads an inspiring story is a huge hit as always. Stories about girls or women who achieved great things give the girls an instant dose of inspiration and eating together at gatherings is a much loved part of the culture. There is a proverb in one of the local languages, Shona, which says ‘Relationships are somewhat empty, it is food which completes them’ and it rings true at our sessions.
This year’s group is loving their group photos and silly poses, we are too! What a lovely celebration of finally coming together.
Remember that end of term lunch that we had planned for but couldn’t have in March 2020? Well, we have another planned for two weeks’ time. Our thirty girls will be served a delicious lunch prepared by staff and mentors. We won an amazing grant that will allow us to give each girl sustainable sanitary wear. There will also be a fun and educational session on menstruation as well as a relaxing art therapy session making use of the white t-shirts we so eagerly purchased last year. This group of girls will be with us for the year and we look forward to discussing more topics, having healthy debates, learning new skills and eating and chatting together with them.
Putting all this in writing has made us see how much has been achieved in such a short space of time (though we did have over a year to prepare). Thank you to all our kind donors who helped us stock up the materials that are now coming into use. Well done to the mentors who have done a great job at adapting to the new protocols necessitated by Covid-19. Verbally communicating through masks is a bit of a challenge especially during that first session, the mentors handled it beautifully! Well done to our trainee mentors for their enthusiasm and for being such quick learners. It would have been so easy to come under the dark cloud of Covid-19 and stop planning or hoping but there was a certain Mrs A whose positivity and forward planning kept everyone upbeat and focused. Thank you Mrs A!
Mood meter – at the start of this report, I had a smile on my face and now it’s turned into a big cheesy grin. Hope it’s infectious!
By Mercy Mutandwa
Mercy Mutandwa is the Operations Manager for Makomborero Zimbabwe.