#IStandForGirls: Talking Shop with Elisabetta and Percina of Kurandza

For eighteen months during my early twenties, I lived in Mozambique.

During that time, I developed a deep love for the country and its people, and those feelings have been etched in my heart ever since.

Even today, a part of my heart still remains in Mozambique. Which is why I am so honored to share more about Kurandza, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping provide education for girls in Mozambique. With an education, girls in Mozambique can change their lives, their communities, and the world. Every girl who receives access to an education represents one step in the direction of positive global change.

My education means everything to me. Everyone deserves that opportunity.

This month, Kurandza’s #IStandForGirls campaign is raising awareness and funds to provide the tools, resources, and supplies girls need to gain their education. Their on-the-ground team works in Mozambique to enrich, empower, and educate, and with our help, Kurandza can help and provide for even more girls. 132 million girls around the world can’t go to school. Together, we can change that.

On today’s Talking Shop, I chat with Kurandza’s founders, Elisabetta and Percina, about the work of their organization, why girls education is so important, and how we all can help their inspired cause.

Everyone, meet Elisabetta and Percina of Kurandza!

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Percina: Eu Percina sou uma das pessoas muito social, gosto muito de conhecer novas pessoas e novos sítios e nos meus tempos livres gosto muito de conversar em conversas construtivas.

(I’m Percina and am a very social person. I like to get to know new people and new places, and in my free time I like to have good conversations.)

Elisabetta: I’m a lot like Percina in that I also love meeting new people and seeing new places. I also LOVE learning languages, being in nature, and being with family and I just got into gardening while sheltering in place. I joined the Peace Corps after college and was placed in a rural village in Mozambique!

How did Kurandza get started?

Elisabetta: While I was in the Peace Corps, Percina and I worked on a project to help women start their own businesses and also teach them life skills. Once my assignment was over and I returned to the US, I knew that I wanted to continue working with Percina and the community where I worked and lived for 3 years, so I started Kurandza!

Percina: Kurandza iniciou tipo brincadeira, tudo começou quando eu e Elisabetta ficamos amigas, depois estivemos numa capacitação onde podíamos elaborar um projeto ao nosso gosto daí pensamos em criar um auto emprego para as mulheres da aldeia que eram seropositivos e a partir daí surgiram mais ideias de apoio até que chegamos a ideia de educação mas tudo a olhar no futuro das mulheres porque nos distritos as mulheres eram muito subestimada.

(Kurandza started like a kind of joke. It all started when Elisabetta and I became friends; we were in a training course where we could develop a project that we wanted. We thought about creating a self-employment for the women of the village who were HIV positive, and from there more ideas of support emerged until we came to the idea of ​​education, but to look at the future of women because in the districts women were very undervalued.)

happy smiling girls in Mozambique

Why are you passionate about the work Kurandza does?

Elisabetta: While working in Mozambique I really came to see that working directly with the people you’re serving makes more of a difference because it’s collaborative and you can come up with solutions together. That’s why I love what we do with Kurandza so much, because it’s a grassroots approach and involves the whole community so we can make a real impact.

Percina: O que me faz ter paixão com o trabalho de Kurandza é espelhar o melhor futuro das meninas e pensar que a vida do futuro será diferente com a vida que muitas mulheres vivem agora.

(What makes me passionate about the work of Kurandza is to mirror the best future for the girls and to think that the life of the future will be different than the life that many women live now.)

How exactly does Kurandza’s work help girls in Mozambique?

Elisabetta: Not only does Kurandza help girls attend school who normally wouldn’t be able to or who are on the verge of dropping out, but we also help these girls stay in school and thrive. One of the most impactful aspects of our work is the tutoring and home visits by our educators. The extra support given our girls encourages them to keep studying and to dream for the future.

Percina: O trabalho de Kurandza ajuda meninas em: proporcionar educação para elas, modificar ou ajudar a elas a espelhar um futuro melhor.

(The work of Kurandza helps girls in: providing education for them, and modifying or helping them mirror a better future.)

Mozambican girl writing in notebook

Why do you stand for girls?

Elisabetta: I believe even though men and women have unique strengths, abilities, and differences, that we are both equal in value. I believe that education should be available to both boys and girls. Because in Mozambique and many places around the world, girls often don’t have the same opportunities and access to education as boys do, I think it’s important to stand for girls and bridge the gap so that both boys AND girls can go to school, get an education, and have a bright future.

Percina: Apoiamos meninas porque queremos o melhor das meninas e meter na mente dos Moçambicanos que mulher também pode tudo. Nós olhamos para as meninas como pessoas que quando não tem escola ficam expostas a tudo então pra nós meninas é o foco para um bom futuro. 

(We support girls because we want the best of the girls and to put in the minds of Mozambicans that women can do anything, too. We look at the girls as people who, when they don’t have school, are exposed to everything, so for our girls the focus is to have a good future.)

young Mozambican girl holding I Stand For Girls poster
Kurandza is Changana for “to love.”

How have you seen the girls in Mozambique affected by Kurandza?

Elisabetta: I’ve seen the impact on our girls in so many ways. To name a few, none of the girls have had to drop out. Usually girls will drop out for many reasons — because they don’t have a uniform or school supplies, because they can’t pay for transportation and the walk to high school is too far, because they don’t have lunch to bring to school on P.E. days, because they get pregnant, etc. Our girls have been supported in so many ways that they have stayed in school and 100% of the kids in our program have passed exit exams and passed to the next grade. These girls are now excited for school, and dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up!

Percina: O impacto que Kurandza fez para as meninas foi de transformar as vidas delas aquelas que estavam a desistir Kurandza incentivou a voltarem a escola.

(The impact that Kurandza made was for the girls to transform their lives, those who were giving up, Kurandza encouraged them to return to school.)

Why is education for girls so important?

Elisabetta: Research has shown that when girls are educated, there are less child brides, better nutrition and overall community health, and that poverty decreases. Tangibly, we’ve seen that when these girls are able to get an education, that they can open their minds and see the world with endless possibilities.

Percina: Educação é tão importante para as meninas porque quando as meninas não estudam casam cedo e ficam expostas a tudo. 

(Education is so important for the girls because when girls don’t study, they marry early and become exposed to everything.)

How can people get involved in the cause? What can their contributions do for girls?

Elisabetta: People can join our cause by helping raise awareness or by sponsoring the education of a girl. $20/month can provide one girl with school fees, a backpack full of school supplies, a uniform, and transportation to and from school. Or you can sponsor a girl for $50/month, providing all of these things plus tutoring, home visits, and extra support due to covid-19. For more information and to sign-up: www.kurandza.org/istandforgirls.

Percina: As contribuições de doadores podem mudar as vidas delas proporcionando melhor futuro. As pessoas pode participar dando apoio psicossocial, monitório, no psicossocial vamos ter diálogo mostrando a importância da educação, no apoio monetário suprindo algumas necessidades básicas para educação.

(The contributions of donors can change their lives by providing a better future. People can participate by giving help psychosocially or financially — in the psychosocial we will have a dialogue showing the importance of education; in monetary support supplying some basic needs for education.)

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from the girls Kurandza serves?

Elisabetta: I’ve learned that all children have the potential to be great when given love, support, and encouragement. Some of our girls were street kids and many are orphans, but when given the chance, they have shown so much promise and have improved in behavior and also the desire to learn.

Percina: Nós com as meninas aprendemos a ter paciência, aprendemos a olhar as coisas de uma forma diferente tipo vermos que afinal de contas é possível as coisas acontecer, porque vemos as crianças que não aceitavam a escola mas depois do incentivo ganharam vontade aí conseguimos ver que tudo é possível desde momento que se esforcemos mais.

(We, with the girls, learn to have patience, we learn to look at things in a different way, like seeing that after all, it is possible for things to happen, because we see children who did not accept school but after incentive, they gained will. We can see that everything is possible from the moment we try more.)

 What have been some of your most special experiences while running Kurandza?

Percina: Alguma das experiências minhas como líder de Kurandza, conheci novos ambientes, novos sítios como EUA e lá tive muitas experiências.

(Some of my experiences as leader of Kurandza: I got to know new environments, new places like the US and had many experiences there.)

Elisabetta: My favorite experiences have been when Percina visited the US and we got to meet with several donors and supporters, which was a lot of fun! I’ve also enjoyed building community and meeting so many like-minded women who want to make an impact on the world.

What do you love about Mozambique?

Elisabetta: I love how friendly and hospitable the people are!

Percina: O que amo de Moçambique é a solidariedade e vida em comum.

(What I love about Mozambique is the solidarity and the life in common.)

Elisabetta: What is your favorite thing about Percina?

Wow! Percina is an amazing person. I look up to her in so many ways. She is very wise and has taught me so much. She’s a prayer warrior, one of the most loving and patient people I know. She accepts things how they are and doesn’t try to change people. She truly sees the best in people and wants us all to succeed.

Percina: What is your favorite thing about Elisabetta?

é muito difícil descrever o que eu gosto na Elisabetta, ela tem muitas coisas que eu gosto mas a coisa mais importante que ela tem é de ela ser muito sensível com as pessoas e que ela sente dor doutra pessoa, é uma pessoa de coração enorme.

(It’s very difficult to describe what I like in Elisabetta. She has many things that I like but the most important thing she has is that she is very sensitive to people and she feels the pain of other people. She is a person with a huge heart.)

What is one of your favorite memories together?

Elisabetta: Some of my favorite memories are our long walks to work in the morning through the village…being neighbors when my home flooded in Mozambique and eating dinner together every night… being with her when she was pregnant with her firstborn and being there when her second child was born…. Her visiting the US twice! So many!

Percina: Yeah não é fácil temos muitas memórias juntas. Ela esteve comigo todos os dias quando tive a minha primeira filha e mais muitas coisas que posso escrever uma semana toda.

(Yeah, it’s not easy, we have many memories together. She was with me everyday when I had my first daughter and many more things that I could write for a whole week.)

 What are your individual job responsibilities at Kurandza?

Elisabetta: As the Executive Director I currently wear many hats! From programming with Percina to social media and marketing, to fundraising and community building, to overall operations– lots of different things right now!

Percina: As minhas responsabilidades individuais são: gerir a equipe cá em Moçambique, coordenar tarefas com Elisabetta, passar informações de cá para lá e ela me passar informações de lá para cá, coordenar com as escolas, coordenar com governo, e controlar e monitorar as nossas meninas.

(My individual responsibilities are: managing the team here in Mozambique, coordinating tasks with Elisabetta, passing information from here to there, and her passing me information from there to here, coordinating with the schools, coordinating with government, and controlling and monitoring our girls.)

graphic of phrases in english, Portuguese, and Changana

How can you support Kurandza and the girls in Mozambique?

Join the #IStandForGirls campaign and sponsor girls education.

You can also visit Longhand Pencils, where I’m giving a portion of all sales for the month of September to Kurandza. Plus, three exclusive products — a pencil set, pencil pouch, and notebook — will have 100% of sales benefitting Kurandza and #IStandForGirls campaign.

Find Kurandza online here, and on IG @lovekurandza.

One comment

  1. What a great interview and a cause that’s so close to you! Thank you for sharing!

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