Bernie Mshana is the Communications Coordinator with the Grumeti Fund, based in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Our team had the privilege of meeting Bernie while documenting one of the Grumeti Fund’s Girls Empowerment Sessions.
The Grumeti Fund, with the support of their Tanzanian partners, is actively involved in preserving 350,000 acres of Serengeti wilderness. Through active conservation management, collaboration with local communities, technological innovations and the deployment of well-trained boots-on-the-ground, they are committed to affecting tangible change and achieving sustainable results to promote the peaceful co-existence of people and wildlife in this ecosystem.
Through their Community Outreach Programmes, the Grumeti Fund is enhancing the quality of education provided to local communities to equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue rewarding and successful careers. The Grumeti Fund provides support in the form of scholarships for secondary school, vocational studies and education within the conservation and tourism sectors.
The connection between people and wildlife is something we are so passionate about and something as a community we try to highlight. Women are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and environmental issues like climate change. But, women and young girls also play an essential role in the fight to protect our natural world.
Empowering women and young girls is one of the most powerful mechanisms for change. In rural areas, not only do women who have access to education have increased economic opportunities, which benefits them, their families, communities and countries, but they also have the knowledge and skillset necessary to manage their environmental impact and land use sustainably. Educating and empowering women in rural areas will also better equip them to mitigate the effects of climate change.
To secure a future in which people and wildlife both thrive and live peacefully alongside each other, women and young girls need to be at the forefront of environmental protection strategies. The Grumeti Fund recognises this and works to ensure that Girls Empowerment is at the centre of the Grumeti Fund’s educational projects. Each year, they host several events for girls addressing empowerment, health, confidence, body image and career development.
Over 1600 Secondary School girls from Bunda and Serengeti came together to discuss the challenges facing girls at the Grumeti Fund Empowerment Session. Women from different professions and walks of life, including Frida Mollel and Rebeca Gyum from the Msichana Initiative, came together to share their knowledge and address key issues facing young girls such as reproductive health, access to education, and the importance of solidarity amongst girls.
These mentors also shared important tips with the young girls attending to help equip them with the tools they need to overcome the challenges they are facing including access to education, how to make the most of their education and further their career development.
The Grumeti Fund is committed to creating long-term, fundamental change. However, in some cases, immediate action is needed. Many young girls in this area are experiencing period poverty and as a result, often do not attend school while menstruating. One way the Grumeti Fund works to alleviate these immediate needs is providing disposable and reusable pads to the girls that attend the Empowerment Sessions to ensure they do not have to miss school.
Bernie has a unique perspective on the power and importance of these Empowerment Sessions. As a young girl, Bernie had exposure to strong female role models, who inspired and empowered her. Their influence played a crucial role in encouraging her to overcome her obstacles and reach her full potential. Experiencing first-hand the impact having positive, strong and inspiring women to look up to, has instilled within Bernie a passion to support and empower young girls in similar situations.
“Tuko Pamoja means we are together.”
- Bernie Mshana
The motto for the Grumeti Fund Empowerment Sessions is “Tuko Pamoja”, which directly translates to “we are together”. This represents women standing in solidarity and coming together to fight for women’s rights. An important bond is established between the girls at these Empowerment Sessions as they share their journeys, support each other and learn the value of using their experiences to empower other girls.
Representation is vital in proving to young girls that they can achieve their dreams. Bernie’s story is helping to show young girls that their value is not determined by the challenges they face and that there is so much power in being a girl. Her commitment to using the skills and knowledge she has gained to inspire and empower other young women is remarkable.
“You often hear the notion that girls don’t love each other, but then you walk into this room and it’s like 900 girls cheering, cheering for each other, cheering just for being together and you’re like “No, girls must love each other.”
- Bernie Mshana
Around the world, the next generation of girls are determined to speak up against injustices and are amplifying each other’s voices in their fight for change. They are spreading a message of confidence and solidarity in achieving equality, despite the challenges they face along the way. Young women like Bernie are helping to lead the way for the next generation and it is inspiring to see.
Bernie still has so much of her career ahead of her and we are so excited to see all that she will still achieve and the impact she will have on those around her.