The impact of COVID-19 means girls and women are set to wait another generation to reach gender equality. It could now take a staggering 135.6 years to close the gender gap, across areas including education and health (World Economic Forum).

The power of friendship

While girls and young women continue to lead the movement towards gender equality, we need both girls and boys to meet it.

Friendship is key to this. But in many places, social norms between girls and boys mean there is often little opportunity for them to build these kinds of relationships. This is especially the case during adolescence, when roles in society shift and adolescent girls in particular face unique challenges.

We believe, however, that adolescence provides an opportunity to start conversations about gender equality and why it benefits everyone.

Five must-haves to launch the biggest youth brand in Malawi


Uniting girls and boys

Negative preconceptions of girls and boys during adolescence exist in many countries.

In Malawi, girls are taught to “avoid boys” after puberty, sexual relationships are expected and platonic relationships are often discouraged. If a girl becomes pregnant, she can face pressure to leave school, marry the father and take on the household chores.

And in Rwanda, stereotypes around what it means to “be a girl” can restrict their opportunities.

To help tackle this, Girl Effect produces content that helps challenge expectations between girls and boys.

Our youth brand in Malawi, Zathu, uses the power of music and storytelling to address topics around growing up.

Songs produced by Zathu’s band use Malawian influences and modern beats to spread memorable and positive messages about friendship. The lyrics of their single, Chete Chete, explore self-expression and discount the belief that men need to appear strong.

“Zathu helps to reduce discrimination among boys and girls. And it also teaches us to be reliable to one another.” Girl, aged 13-15

Zathu Boys and Girls

Zathu girls and boys

86% of people engaged with Zathu believe it has taught them that females should be treated equally to males.*

In Rwanda, our well-established brand Ni Nyampinga has been helping a generation of girls to make choices and be confident, for a decade. Using a range of media, it arms girls with information and inspiration.

Ni Nyampinga’s radio drama Sakwe shows the perspectives of both girls and boys. Set in the fictitious village of Kabuto, Sakwe highlights the difficulties young Rwandans face and how to overcome them through the unifying power of friendship. It is written by girl journalists and airs as part of Ni Nyampinga’s radio show on Radio Rwanda, which reaches 98% of the population.

“Ni Nyampinga has taught me that I can do anything a boy can do.” Girl, aged 16-19

Finding their voices, together

Creating safe spaces for girls and boys to explore issues together, like community clubs and agony aunts, also helps them ask questions they might be too embarrassed to ask elsewhere. It gives them the opportunity to learn about each other, in a judgement-free environment.

As part of Zathu’s free magazine and mini-magazine, our agony aunt “Ask Gogo”, invites and answers around 200 questions per month from girls and boys about sex, puberty and relationships.



And Baza Shangazi (the Ni Nyampinga “Ask Aunty” in Rwanda), helps girls by answering their questions about friendship through a radio talk show and magazine. Baza Shangazi receives hundreds of messages every day sent in by listeners, and has answered over 100,000 questions to date.

Girls who regularly read or listen to Ni Nyampinga are 67% more likely to have positive attitudes towards gender equality. **

Baza Shangazi

Baza Shangazi

Our content helps girls and boys explore and nurture friendships.

We think this is a crucial part of adolescent life, because it’s often through friendships that girls and boys can see themselves as equals and are able to support one another.

That’s equality. And when we have that, everyone wins.

*86% of consumers (aged 10+) believe Zathu has taught them that females should be treated equally to males. (Girl Effect 2018)

**Compared to all those unaware of Ni Nyampinga, multi-regular consumers (those who regularly consume more than two products) have a 67% higher probability of having positive attitudes towards gender equality. (Girl Effect 2017)

What we do - brand for social change - Zathu