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Dageno Girls Center is a residential educational center in Karatu, Tanzania for adolescent girls in the surrounding villages who are facing distressing challenges and are at high risk of early marriage, teenage motherhood, HIV infection, and exploitative pathways in life.
"Dageno" means "many girls" in the local Iraqw language. Before colonial times, the tribe separated its teenage girls from the community for up to three years to be educated by elder women in the life skills (known as "Sigi") needed to become productive members of society, such as raising children and livestock, cooking, traditional medicine, managing responsibilities, values, and building family and community harmony. The "dageno" of today's generation need a set of life skills that bridge the traditions with the rapidly changing economic and social landscape.
At Dageno Girls Center, our Sigi curriculum is grounded in girls-centered design thinking. The learning approach is collaborative and problem- and project-based, where girls learn to formulate questions and seek their own answers using principles of design. In addition to ten academic subjects, the girls learn communication, entrepreneurial leadership, and life skills, applying what they've learned in a real context. Learning and hygiene supplies, healthcare, and three nutritious meals per day are provided so the girls can give full focus to their studies.
In Tanzania, 92% of girls do not continue their education past primary school primarily due to the inability to pay school fees. In the rural areas of Karatu District, many families subsist on seasonal farm laborer wages, earning less than $500 per year. Secondary public school education costs at least $600 per year. Parents who value education may sell their only assets (a cow or a plot of land) or go into debt to pay the school fees, with no return on their investment when their children fail the national exams. 60% failed the Form 4 exam in 2012 and have limited prospects for getting a job or continuing their education.
Dageno aims to catapult girls on a trajectory out of poverty to productivity, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary critical and creative thinking, an entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving, and life skills. We select Dageno girls based on the following criteria: 1. Need and Pivotal Points - environmental and circumstantial risk factors 2. Grit - tenacity, drive, passion, resilience 3. Gumption - confidence, courage, common sense, curiosity, character, initiative 4. Spark - optimism, compassion, enthusiasm
The center is currently home to 60 Dageno girls, preparing not only for the national exams but for the challenges life may throw at them.