Girls’ voices inspire and inform everything we do. We hear about the barriers Rahma has faced as a young woman in Tanzania, and how she believes technology can help break these down.

In Tanzania, adolescent girls are often expected to support family finances, get married early and run a household. With limited formal employment opportunities available, young people are encouraged to be enterprising in generating multiple sources of income.

This includes young women like Rahma, a 21 year-old student and entrepreneur from Tanzania. She is the youngest in her family, and lives with her parents in Dar es Salaam.

“My biggest aspiration is to become an entrepreneur. I’d like other girls to look up to me…I will be their role model,” says Rahma.

Rahma- far left

For the past three years, Rahma has been working as a Tech Enabled Girl Ambassador – or TEGA – in Tanzania. TEGA is Girl Effects girl-operated digital research tool that allows girls to collect real-time insights into the lives of their peers, via a smartphone.

TEGA empowers and trains adolescent girls aged 18-24 to conduct interviews within their own communities – not just with other girls, but with other community members too.

The programme is designed to upskill and economically empower young women through formal training and payment. Research fits around existing education and employment commitments, and each girl gains an internationally-recognised market research qualification.

For many reasons, girls are often left out of traditional research methodologies and their voices not properly incorporated, or even heard. Through TEGA, young women like Rahma are helping bridge this gender data gap, and have conducted over 25,000 interviews across seven countries, including Tanzania, India, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nigeria and the USA.

Rahma hopes to challenge what girls have been told is possible “for a girl” within their community.

“The community should see a girl as a person with power,” said Rahma. “There is so much young girls want to do but are unable to because of the barriers within the community that surrounds them.”

“Let’s lift ourselves up, together”

Insights from researchers like Rahma also help inform all of Girl Effect’s work. In particular, when it comes to digital technology, these unique insights help build an understanding of the nuanced challenges and opportunities girls face both online and offline.

“The community sees that a boy has more important reasons to use a phone than a girl,” explains Rahma. “Girls can be prevented from using technology because the community thinks differently about a girl using technology”.

Recognising that girls in Tanzania have limited access to the internet, Girl Effect’s youth brand Tujibebe  – meaning “let’s lift ourselves up, together” in Swahili – meets girls through the technology they use. The content is accessible online whether girls own or borrow a mobile phone – connecting with girls via a radio drama, radio chat show, interactive audio stories, digital channels and clubs.

If girls have limited internet access, they can use basic phones to call Tujibebe’s national Interactive Voice Response (IVR) line. This is the platform that corporations typically use to run customer service lines – Press 1 for X or Press 2 for Y.

By using this basic technology in an innovative way, girls can listen to real-life and fictional stories about female entrepreneurs, tips for safely making money or how to save for the future. The IVR line has received over 1.5 million calls to date.

Today’s technologies open up channels to speak with girls individually about their aspirations and the obstacles they face. Mobile devices can enable girls to get answers they can’t get elsewhere about safe sex, relationships, health care, entrepreneurship and nutrition.

A girl looks at Tujibebe content on her phone

“The internet educates. It gives you the opportunities you need. If you want entrepreneurship skills, business. You can get anything that you want from the internet,” says Rahma.

Through these opportunities, Rahma has started her own business, manufacturing and selling liquid soap. She is self-taught from watching videos and content online, and now sells the products within her community.

“Digital platforms inspire us by showing girls like us who have become successful. When I’m told “you can’t achieve this”, I see through digital platforms, well, how come this person made it? So actually, I can achieve this too!”