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International Partnerships

“Girls should be able to focus only on their studies”: how activism changes girls’ lives in Mozambique

With notebooks in her arms and a bright smile, Maria*, 16, is getting ready for another school day. She is in the 9th grade in Mogovolas district, Nampula province, Mozambique, and dreams of becoming a nurse.

"Maria is a passionate student, and so far she is doing well in school," shares Ivone Adelino, an activist who mentors and supports adolescent girls through her work with Fórum Mulher, one of the Civil Society Organizations that partners with the Spotlight Initiative.

Ivone's role is to identify safe places to organize and facilitate mentoring sessions with girls where they can discuss topics related to women's rights and economic empowerment. The sessions take place twice a week, and she encourages the girls to report situations where their rights have been violated, as well as encouraging them to continue their studies.

I said I could not get married because I was not of the recommended age.

Maria, 9th grade student

It is a pride for us to see her back in school.

Ivone Adelino, an activist who mentors and supports adolescent girls

Maria is now part of a girls' group that participates in mentorship sessions, learning about preventing and reporting cases of early and forced marriage and gender-based violence. Over the past three years, more than 45,000 girls and young women in Nampula province have benefited from these mentorship sessions and door-to-door community campaigns.

Learning from her situation, Maria shares: "I have been advising other girls like me to focus on their studies and to refuse, as many times as needed, to get married before they reach their legal age. Girls should be able to focus only on their studies".

In an effort to eliminate gender-based violence and other harmful practices, the Spotlight Initiative engages activists, community-based groups and associations in Nampula in conducting community dialogue sessions, door-to-door awareness campaigns, peer-to-peer education, and training on sexual and reproductive rights and gender-based violence prevention.

In 2021, Spotlight Initiative in Mozambique trained more than 500 community activists and mentors to conduct face-to-face awareness-raising campaigns in the provinces of Gaza, Manica and Nampula, reaching over 700,000 people. By increasing knowledge and awareness of their rights, girls like Maria are better equipped to say ‘no’ to early unions, seek support, and live the life they truly deserve.

The Spotlight Initiative is a strategic partnership between the EU and the UN. It aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. In Mozambique, the Spotlight Initiative is led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action in partnership with the United Nations and civil society organizations.


*Name has been changed to protect the girl's identity.

Original text by: Hélder Xavier and Jessica Lomelin