It’s happy days thanks to Comic Relief boost

CEO José Sluijs-Doyle

CEO José Sluijs-Doyle

Our CEO José Sluijs-Doyle is delighted to explain how a massive £1million boost from Comic Relief will improve the life chances of Tanzanian girls…


We’re all smiles this week in our cramped offices here in central Bristol. Our partners in downtown Arusha and in the remote rural north of Tanzania are also grinning from ear to ear.

Our reasons to be cheerful? African Initiatives has just been awarded a five-year, £1,000,000 grant from Comic Relief. It is the biggest grant in our charity’s history and will enable us to transform education in Tanzania. The money will mean some of the most marginalised children in the world – particularly Maasai girls – will now be able to get an education and enjoy some choice in life.

Of course, girls’ education is not a new focus for African Initiatives. However, Comic Relief’s financing of our new five-year Equal Rights to Education project means we can really expand our work in some of the poorest communities in Tanzania. The five-year grant also gives us the security of knowing that we will be able to bring about lasting change in six districts in Tanzania – Ngorongoro, Monduli, Longido, Karatu, Mbulu and Kilolo.

As you might be aware, female genital mutilation and forced marriage are common practices among the Maasai and other male-dominated pastoralist communities. In traditional Maasai culture, a girl is often just seen as an extra mouth to feed until she is married off in exchange for cattle. Sexual violence is also commonplace. Culturally, the Maasai see no value in investing in girls’ education so girls are often denied the right to go to school.

The Comic Relief grant endorses both African Initiatives’ and our partners’ expertise in working with hard-to-reach communities. Up to 60,000 students stand to benefit from this new five-year Equal Rights to Education project, enabling us to improve the life chances of many more pastoralist girls. When you speak to girls in Tanzania you realise that they have the same ambitions as children in Britain. They want to be doctors and lawyers. They want to help their community. They don’t want to be married off at 14 and be restricted to a life of endless child rearing and cattle herding.

The aims of our new project are to increase the enrolment, retention and performance of pastoralist girls in school. We hope that as more girls go to school, attitudes in the community will change and people will start to see that not only is it important for girls to have equal rights, but when they do go to school, the whole community benefits – and it gets both healthier and wealthier. While funded by Comic Relief, the project will be managed by African Initiatives and implemented in partnership with the Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), Community Aid and Small Enterprises Consultancy (CASEC) and Community Research and Development Services (CORDS) – all trusted organisations we have long worked with in Tanzania.

Together, we will be working with parents, schools, traditional leaders, ward development committees and district education authorities to drive the project forward. By encouraging everyone to get involved, we will give child protection the focus it deserves and, at the same time, will improve access to education for marginalised groups.

We have five criteria for measuring success: improving access to education; improving quality of education; improving governance and security of schools; improving transition from primary to secondary school and strengthening the organisational capabilities of our Tanzanian partners. We will, of course, report back to you on our progress throughout the duration of the project, which runs from 2014 to 2019.

One quick ask before I finish this blog: while the Comic Relief grant is a massive boost to African Initiatives, with additional funding we can expand our girls’ education projects to more communities and provide more girls with the opportunity of a better future. If you are able to donate before 17th December, it means as an organisation we can plan ahead for next year’s programme.

Finally, on behalf of the African Initiatives’ team here in Bristol and our partners overseas, I’d like to thank you for your continued support. Yes, I truly believe that together we can change lives.

In our next blog you can read how our new Equal Rights to Education project will benefit girls like 12-year-old Maasai schoolgirl Beby Ramat.