A Model Global Citizen

GC’s exclusive with fashion model Flaviana Matata, who embarked on a philanthropic journey to provide educational opportunities to young girls in Tanzania.

Founded in 2011, the Flaviana Matata Foundation serves as a platform to inspire, empower, and support girl to unleash their potential and achieve their dream lives. Since its inception, the foundation has evolved from providing scholarships alone to a variety of fully-fledged service resources; having realized that her efforts need to go beyond providing school supplies but
rather strive to create a conducive and friendly environment for young girls to receive the education they deserve. Since then Flaviana has initiated other ventures that seek to support and reinforce her mission -using girls’ education as a tool.

What inspired you to start the foundation?

“To whom much is given, much is required.” After I got signed to a modelling agency and moved to the US, I was determined to lead change beyond my career, and I founded the Flaviana Matata Foundation which empowers girls through access to quality education. With 1 in 3 girls marrying before the age of 18, 1 in 4 girls bearing their first child before 18, and only
1 in 4 girls completing secondary schooling beyond the age of 15, I knew I had to do something. “I decided early my platform would be dedicated to changing the narrative and disrupting the status quo.”

How did your journey begin?

Having clarity around the impact I desired to make was only half the battle. I knew the what, but figuring out the how required quite a bit more work. I started the Flaviana Matata Foundation to honor my passion and deep commitment to use education as a tool to transform the lives of Tanzanian girls from underserved communities. At the heart of the work we do is creating opportunities – we ensure girls and young women have the resources and equal opportunities they need to complete their education, find employment and start their own businesses. There are millions of girls across the globe who are denied access to education. We began with one simple goal – transform future generations by educating girls, and supporting the communities they live in.

What are you most proud of ever since its inception?

Apart from so much work we have accomplished as an organization, I’m most proud when I see all the work we’ve done and all the 7 girls who graduated from universities last year.
We’re now in the last building phase of teacher housing as we believe teachers are so important part of what we do, and they shouldn’t be left behind. To witness the construction project near completion, knowing where we began, makes me proud to use my voice and platform for good. The best part is that it’s the effort of the FMF team and the people who have been very supportive throughout the years. It has been like a ripple effect.

How many lives has the FMF impacted?

Under our scholarship program, we started with 10 girls supporting them with everything they need to stay in school. We currently have 25 students being sponsored. We work with over 4500 girls under our SRHR/MHHM program, 52 young women under our economic empowerment program, and we’ve impacted over 8,500 girls and boys through our work collaboratively with our community partner, Msisune Primary School, which is located in Bayamoyo, increasing enrollment by 85% since 2015, and significantly decreasing the school dropout rate. I’m so grateful I get to serve in this capacity. We have reached over 60,000 people through our programs and we hoping to expand our programs to other communities across the country.

What has been the biggest challenge in the pursuit of reinforcing education?

There are so many challenges. Specifically in Tanzania. The biggest challenge, however, is poverty itself. Coming from an underserved community presents high risk of dropout due to early marriages, early pregnancy, gender-based violence, cultural taboos especially around the education of girls. Communal economic empowerment is extremely important. Supporting and educating the community and family helps to transform traditions and culture that can sometimes be an inhibitor of progress.
That’s why we invest heavy in communities through dialogues with parents, teachers, cultural and religious leaders. It takes years to change minds, and change takes time, so we focus on one step at a time.

What can be done amongst the global community to help overcome it?

Go deep, instead of going wide. It’s not just about the numbers. Impact matters most. To ensure sustainable growth doing one-off community engagements doesn’t bring about true change. Most funding is going to larger organizations, and many times they aren’t connected to the grassroots organizations who are on the ground effectuating real change. Overcoming the increased challenges requires an expansion of capacity. Supporting grassroots organizations allows for greatest impact because those grassroots organizations live among the people they are impacting.

African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together” ensures our impact stretches across generations and reaches places we only imagined.”