Hudhaifat Hamdan, a 2014-2015 YES alumna (Lake Stevens, Washington) and recipient of a 2016 Global Grant, has used her advantage as an exchange alumna to give back to her community. Inspired by her time in America, she wanted to give back to her community in Zanzibar. Particularly to young women who have dropped out of school, often due to teen pregnancy.
“It impacts my life a lot, knowing there are people who really want to succeed in life, but either don’t know where to start or don’t have the resources.”
Teen pregnancy is extremely stigmatized in Tanzanian villages. There are no programs to educate young men and women on protected sex and pregnancy prevention. The topic is very taboo to villagers. Only government programs and NGOs attempt to educate the villagers on the topic. Some mothers even pull their daughters out of school once they reach puberty to prevent pregnancy. However, once a woman does become pregnant the father rarely stays involved. The only two options for a Tanzanian woman are taking the father to court, or arranging a marriage.
Often, women are too embarrassed by their predicament to take any legal action against the fathers of their children. As for marriage, they are typically short lived. There is no rule barring pregnant girls from staying in school, but the embarrassment and judgement typically leads them to drop out. This robs them of their education leaving the women feeling alone and helpless with very few resources to rely on.
Hudhaifat became interested in philanthropic efforts after her stay in America. During her time in Washington, she contributed over 100 hours of community service by volunteering at food pantries, Toys for Tots, Relay for Life and more. Once she arrived back in Tanzania she discovered that one of her friends had dropped out of school due to pregnancy. She felt she had to help. The culmination of these two life events led Hudhaifat to the creation of her Empowering Young Women Dropouts program.
To help these women, Hudhaifat has hosted a series of seminars to promote independence for these young women. Most recently, she hosted a seminar on marketing, branding and customer care for 25 women. Through these efforts, women can help support their families after they leave school by making food, jewelry and other wares to sell.
The project is now self sustaining. It is run by three women who were once participants in the program. Hudhaifat feels a special bond towards these women. She said,
“The emotions I have towards them is that they are the dedicated young girls who realized they have power and skills once they found someone to support and empower them. I feel like they are family now.”
By encouraging participants to give back to the program, it ensures that Empowering Young Women Dropouts will be around for years to come. If you would like to start a program in your home country just like Hudhaifat, fill out this year’s application for an IRIS Global Grant. These grants are to help kickstart life changing programs across the globe for IRIS alumni.