A way out: the UK NGO changing the lives of girls in Africa

African Initiatives is a Bristol based rights organisation supporting women and marginalised communities in Tanzania and Ghana. AI partners with local organisations from the two countries to ensure communities are supported in a culturally sensitive and sustainable way.  A relationship with local partners allows them to deliver informed projects in a range of areas and to increase the overall impact of their work.

The promotion of girls’ education remains at the core of African Initiative’s work. Young girls who grow up with illiterate parents can suffer because of their families’ low regard for education, creating a cycle of female illiteracy. Girls who grow up in rural communities face lengthy journeys to school and some have to rent rooms in dormitories nearby, which can be expensive and is not always safe. As poor families continue to struggle to afford to send their children to school, a girl’s access to education is undermined; even parents who want their children to go are burdened with unattainable tuition fees.

As a result, roughly one in three women in Tanzania lacks basic literacy skills. These women have been denied the opportunity to gain an education and so they are also denied access to the positive influence education has on health. The 2011 UNDP Human Development Report found that women who have never attended school have on average 4.5 children, while those who attended secondary school for at least one year have on average 1.9 children.

Ghana’s Dowry Girls, a film by Chloe George and African Initiatives’ partners The Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation | Video Chloe Kanyoni Films

With the persistence of female genital mutilation (FGM) and early forced marriages in many rural communities, even the girls who make it to secondary education can be forced to drop out. In order to improve access to education, African Initiatives has engaged in The Equal Rights Project with three local partners: the Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), Community Aid and Small Enterprises Consultancy (CASEC) and Community Research and Development Services (CORDS). This five-year project is expected to improve school conditions for up to 26,000 primary school children and 23,000 secondary school pupils in six districts of Northern Tanzania. Special attention has been taken to secure an equal number of boys and girls attending school, as both groups face different hurdles to their education. Once these children are in school, measures are taken to improve the quality of teaching and governance. This helps reduce dropout rates and convince local communities that it is in their best interests to allow their children to complete their education. AI has also worked with CASEC on past projects to provide girls health clubs in schools, which encourage open discussion about HIV/AIDS and FGM.

Two volunteers standing smiling at camera wearing orange African Initiatives T-shirts

Image | African Initiatives / Facebook


In addition to focusing on the education and health rights of girls and young women, African Initiatives strives to help women provide for their families through farming. Their project with the Community Self Reliance Centre in Ghana facilitates women’s access to fertile land, inheritance and property through community sensitization and advocacy, enabling women to become successful smallholder farmers who can build sustainable futures for themselves and their families. AI has remained committed to strengthening community groups, helping both male and female farmers to influence policies and demand their rights, making it easier for new generations of female farmers to have an impact.

The NGO also works hard to engage a British audience with its objectives. In September, it organised a screening of Girl Rising, a 2013 film following nine girls determined to fight for their right to an education.

African Initiatives is currently celebrating its 20th year and is offering a host of events to mark the occasion, from the Bath Half Marathon in March to climbing Ben Nevis in June and there is a community fundraising pack available to support ideas. The website also has calls for volunteers in the Bristol office, for fundraising events.

Find out more:

African Initiatives website

VSO International – Girls staying in school against the odds

Human Rights Watch – Tanzania needs to renew commitment to ending child marriage

This post is part of a series profiling the work of small independent NGOs and charities in the UK

Thumbnail image: African Initiatives / Facebook


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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