Memunatu Magazine: Empowering Girls in West Africa

Across West Africa, limited access to support and information prevents over 20 million teenage girls from getting the education they deserve. The result? Girls lack the tools to succeed. This deprives communities of future lawyers, doctors, architects; economies of informed female consumers; families of future mothers who will instill the value of education to their children; and societies of their best chance for systemic change.

Memunatu Magazine is here to change that.

What’s the story?

Memunatu3Memunatu Magazine was founded in 2011 by Mariama and Fatmata Kabia, a pair of brilliant and kind-hearted twin sisters.

Mariama and Fatmata always knew they wanted to empower girls in their parents’ home country of Sierra Leone. “My siblings and I grew up in the U.S. watching the decade long civil war affect our parents’ home country,” said Mariama on an interview with the Harvard Kennedy School. “What struck me was how different my life was from that of the girls in Sierra Leone. Things that I had enjoyed — school, sports, clubs, etc. — were things they did not have the opportunity to take part in because of war, poverty, and cultural barriers. I saw these girls as part of my extended community and I have always wanted to do something that had a positive impact in their lives.”

And so, as undergraduates at UPenn, these sisters came up with the idea for an educational publication that aimed to help young West African girls in succeed. They named the magazine after their mother who grew up in Sierra Leone and was a huge influence on their lives.

The Magazine

Memunatu2The mission of the organization is to create a unique, community-driven publication that provides underserved girls with a range of fun and educational content. Distributed through secondary schools with an accompanying teacher’s guide, Memunatu bridges the gap between educational and extracurricular life. The magazine format is new to this audience; and in a society with low internet access, a print publication serves as a means of uniting the entire school ecosystem, creating community, fostering a culture of reading, and improving women’s outcomes.

The magazine’s content comes from freelance writers across the region, NGOs, and the girls themselves. This content includes tips for school, suggested reading, and ways to get involved that they can apply to their daily lives. Each issue has the following core sections: trends, health, skill building, finance and entrepreneurship, page turners, and features that spotlight female role models in their communities.

It takes a village…

Teacher Advocates serve as points of contact at every school Memunatu works with who help provide baseline information to track student performance over time. They also act as an advisory council on Memunatu as a teaching tool.

Student Ambassadors curate student content and lead focus groups to engage their peers, demonstrate leadership, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Community Building makes the magazine come to life, linking like-minded businesses and organizations with our readers. These connections encourage girls to get more involved in their communities.

Mobile SMS tightens feedback loops in the magazine and allows us to monitor and evaluate our impact through direct inputs from girls.

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The impact

There are so many amazing things that happen when you invest in women and girls: they gain the skills they need for school, work, and home life, they become more informed and knowledgeable, and they develop further ambitions. Talk about girl power!

Memunatu has also set following goals for the upcoming academic years:

Year 1 – Reach 10,000 girls in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Year 5 – Reach 260,000+ girls in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and the Gambia

Year 8 – Including Nigeria, they will have an addressable market of 11 million secondary school-aged girls with impact around literacy, leadership, and empowerment.

Woah.

How to get involved

There are so many ways you can show this wonderful organization some love!

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Sponsor: The organization offers opportunities for companies and organizations of varying sizes to get involved with Memunatu Magazine. 

Write/Contribute: Pieces from students experts and community members in West Africa expose girls to new topics. If you are affiliated with a NGO or international organization that operates in West Africa and are interested in submitting a short article about your group’s efforts in the region, send them an email!

Intern/Volunteer: No matter where you are, there’s an opportunity to get involved! Their offices are based in Washington, DC, but there are plenty of other ways for you to volunteer. You get more info by sending an email to the team.

Donate: You could also, of course, give a tax-deductible contribution.

Get Married:  Well, sorta. If you’re tying the knot, consider creating a charitable wedding registry to support the Kabia sisters’ life-changing enterprise.

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