Turning Struggle Into Strength: The Inspiring Story of a Junior Mentor from Mozambique
Líria is a 21-year-old from Mozambique. As an adolescent girl, she was forced into early marriage and sought refuge in a local resource center, which changed the course of her life forever. Now, she is working as a junior mentor with Global G.L.O.W. and the Grail and has a dream of using her own experience to help create a better world for girls everywhere. This is her story in her own words:
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Líria and I am 21 years old. I consider myself a cheerful person who likes to dance, learn, express my positive feelings, interact with people and take care of others. I am from Maputo, Mozambique. I live with my father, my stepmother, and my siblings in the CMC neighborhood, a rural area in Maputo. I met my father at the age of 7 and before that, I lived under the care of my mother. In that period of 0 to 7 years, I lost my mother and had to live with my grandmother. I remember being taken by my stepmother when I left school and I went to live with my father and brothers in Beira, Sofala Province in the central region of Mozambique. I am an orphan of my mother and I have 2 siblings on my mother’s side and 14 on my father’s side.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to sing and dance. I like to listen to loud music and start singing and dancing, I do it every day at my house. I also enjoy doing research in order to learn more. Lately, I have been doing a lot of research related to health and research for academic purposes.
What is your dream for your future?
My dream is to be a social educator. As a child I wanted to be a doctor, but as time went by and due to the experiences I lived, I realized that there are many people who need help on the streets. Today I am more inclined to become a social educator. I believe this dream has already started because as a mentor I think I have already taken the first step to help more people as a social educator in the future.
What do you want the world to know about you?
I want the world to know that I will always be fighting for girls’ rights and that I will never give up because I know they need me. I was a girl who was a victim of premature marriage in pre-adolescence and I do not want any girl to go through this experience. Everyone should consider that each girl deserves to be heard, deserves the power of choice, deserves to explore her childhood and adolescence in order to gather experiences that help them to make the best decisions as adults.
“Everyone should consider that each girl deserves to be heard and deserves the power of choice.”
What is it like to be a girl where you live?
Being a girl where I live is a challenge. Speaking from my own experience, I have always been someone who likes to explore new things and learn from others. When I was younger, I was more interested in things that in my community are seen as “things for boys.” I used to join the boys to play football and I was misunderstood for that. Things only got worse because I also liked bold clothes, so I was frowned upon by the way I dressed, frowned upon by playing sports, frowned upon by having male friendships. At that time, I didn’t even know why I was being so judged. But I continued for so long that I participated in the championship of collegiate games and since then, I have been nicknamed Jean Claude Van Damme, a character that in my community was seen as a synonym of pure masculinity. They argued that they called me that because I like to do “things that are for boys”.
Tell us about a challenging time in your life that you overcame. What helped you get through that time? Did anyone support you?
The most challenging moment of my life was when I was forced to enter a premature union (I don’t like to share about this part of my life because it is still very painful for me). At the time, I joined a reception center where I had the opportunity to socialize with the educators and several girls who ended up there for various reasons. I had a lot of support from the coordination team on-site, the Grail team and from two people who were very close at the time, Marlene, who unfortunately does not keep in touch today, and Rosita, who is now a junior mentor just like me. I entered the reception center at the age of 14 and lived there for 6 years. I left the center at the beginning of the year 2021 and returned to my parents’ house.
How did you get involved with The Grail and Global G.L.O.W.?
I met the Grail while living in the reception center. The Grail developed activities with the girls from the center where we suggested themes that we would like to be treated and the team brought all the material prepared for it to be discussed and we learned a lot. The themes were more linked to sexual and reproductive health and rights. I met Global G.L.O.W. in 2018 through the HerStory program, I participated as a club member and at the beginning of the pandemic, I got more involved, being responsible for sharing the ‘take home’ activities. The shares were made virtually through the WhatsApp group created by our mentors.
What do you like about Global G.L.O.W.?
What I like most is that Global Glow is a very active and caring organization, it is a very optimistic organization that does not feel threatened by challenges. I say this because I was able to observe that it works with several countries placing trust in other organizations. Global G.L.O.W. believes that unity is strength and believes that together we can achieve our common goals. I like the fact that, even in the face of the pandemic, Global G.L.O.W. was able to encourage its team and partners to continue the work. I believe that these activities were of great help to everyone who had the opportunity to join the Global G.L.O.W. family. At the shelter, the activities brought us closer, we always had conflicts at home, when the time came to do the activities, everyone got together and had fun.
“I like the fact that, even in the face of the pandemic, Global G.L.O.W. was able to encourage its team and partners to continue the work. I believe that these activities were of great help to everyone…”
What made you want to become a junior mentor?
What made me want to become a junior mentor was the motivation I received from Abida from Grail, the girls who lived with me in the reception center, and the coordination team at the reception center. Abida was one of the people who trusted me and my skills the most. Whenever I went through a difficult time in the center, due to a family problem or conflicts with myself, Abida was there to say that I am capable. She said that I was able to endure that situation and get over it. The girls who lived with me had someone in me who they trusted to tell their secrets, their worries, and feelings. I remember that one day the girls came together to organize an escape plan from the center and I had to intervene. Together with the educators, we managed to prevent them from executing the plan, and from there, the educators started to trust me more as someone who could lead the girls in the house and maintain order. The educators realized that I knew them all well. These events made me want to be a mentor and to contribute more to help the girls.
What do you like about being a junior mentor?
I have been a junior mentor for almost 2 months, one of the things that motivates me the most is the way I am treated by my colleague Daiana (mentor) and the girls. Daiana is very simple and motivating, she gives me strength, supports me, trusts and believes in me. The girls welcomed me with open arms, believing that I would be able to add some value to them. So, they leave a free space where I can express myself freely and they also express themselves freely. Each time they ask a question I am delighted to answer.
What have you learned from being a mentor?
I learned that being a mentor is not just being someone who transmits some knowledge, it is being a friend. Being a mentor has no age, what you want is to win a place in the hearts of the girls and be aware that that person needs help. The thing that strengthens me the most is the fact that I know that the people we are helping today, will be the ones who will help many others tomorrow. I learned that being a mentor goes beyond social status, race, what the person may have gone through during his life. To be a mentor is to be someone ready to help.
“The thing that strengthens me the most is the fact that I know that the people we are helping today will be the ones who help many others tomorrow.”
What advice do you give younger girls in Global G.L.O.W. clubs?
The advice I give is that they learn, keep their ears, hearts and minds open to reap the learning that is transmitted through the mentors. As much as you do not think the content that is given to you is important, believe me, someday, at some point, in some situation, it will be useful to you. On a day-to-day basis, things will become simpler if you actively participate in your sessions. What is need to do is to know how to listen and understand and put into practice what is shared with you.
What is your wish for women and girls where you live?
My desire is for them to be united because many times conflicts arise between us women, so the more we unite, the more we achieve peace, the more we understand each other and the more we achieve victory, the more we realize our dreams. Supporting each other is the best thing and is the key.