This Activist's Powerful Message On How To Help Other Women "Rise Up"

Photographed by Martin Mendizabal.
Loveness Sanga is working in Tanzania to help girls and women achieve their goals.
Gift was 14 when she became pregnant.

Isolated and overwhelmed, the Tanzanian teen soon dropped out of school. She became convinced that everyone in her neighborhood was mocking her.

"She locked herself inside her house for years raising her baby," Loveness Sanga, a local aid worker and activist, recalled. "It was difficult for her to trust anybody.”

Over the years, Gift developed a talent for a beading skill she picked up from her grandmother. But her insecurity kept her from selling her goods at the market. Then, advocates involved in Girls Let’s Be Leaders, a local program run by Sanga, came knocking with an invitation to join. By the third visit, Gift agreed to give it a try. The decision was a life-changer.

"She realized there were so many other girls like her, in the same situation she had been through, and she realized that they were empowered, that we would protect her and that we would give her the power to claim in her own right," Sanga said. "She realized that life can continue going on, regardless of what mistakes had been done before. That could be used to give her more strength to move forward."

As an assistant program coordinator with the international nonprofit Restless Development, Sanga has dedicated her life to helping girls like Gift. Her locally run program, Girls Let's Be Leaders, provides support to girls aged 10 to 19 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, focusing on everything from gender-based violence and sexual health to economic and civic opportunities.

On a recent trip to New York, Sanga shared with Refinery29 her message for other young women hoping to make a change in the world.

“If you are a woman and you happen to have an opportunity to get through life and live in a certain way that you are comfortable and you are accepted to live in society, try to use that position that you have to influence other women or to empower other minority women to rise up and become who you are — even better than you are," she said.

Gift is a prime example of how that approach can work — and pay dividends for the broader community. The mother now has her own shop where she sells her goods. And she's giving back to the program, serving as a "livelihood teacher."

"She feels like she is now needed," Sanga said. "All these other girls are learning form her — she’s changing the lives of all these other girls. She’s working in the street with power and confidence. It has really transformed her.”

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