Success Story from Tanzania: Amnah Ibuni’s Sure Steps School

Amnah Feisal-Amin Ibuni is a young Tanzanian woman who was born in 1987 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. When her father passed away when she was only eight years old she and her family moved back to Tanzania. Growing up in Zanzibar, Amnah was distressed when she witnessed many of her female friends drop out of school as teenagers to get married. Amnah’s mother, unlike most in her neighborhood, believed that it would be far better if traditions were different and young women followed their dreams, whether that led them to raising a family, pursuing a career, or both.

Amnah’s mother sacrificed and struggled to facilitate all of her children’s education. Amnah is very grateful to her mother for assisting her with her primary and secondary schooling. These early educational successes, and a tip from a family friend working at the Tanzanian Embassy in India about opportunities in that country, led to Amnah being able to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2012 at Punjab College of Technical Education in India.

Ms. Ibuni saw a major difference between women’s lives in India and Tanzania. Her three years there fueled her desire to see more inclusiveness of women back home, including in leadership positions, obtaining an advanced education, and positions in fields like Information Technology.

In 2013, Ms. Ibuni was pleased to be elected by the members of the Youth Parliament to be the Secretary General for the Youth Parliament in Zanzibar. In 2014, Ms. Ibuni co-founded Sure Steps Nursery School which supports community development by providing local women with a safe place to leave their two to six year old children for half the day so that they may pursue entrepreneurial skills and education. The nursery school provides an inclusive, non-denominational setting for children of all abilities and employment for seven people. The goal over time is to employ some of the mothers of the children that have made use of the nursery.

In 2015, Ms. Ibuni was among a select group of Tanzanians chosen by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German online community and associated charitable foundation that promotes democracy, to participate in the Young Leaders Forum. The Forum assists participants to strengthen civil society through their democratic institutions and organizations. Ms. Ibuni also has been an active member of Zanzibar Youth Forum for eight years, working directly with youths in the community and helping to empower them.

Ms. Ibuni is the recipient of a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship, a highly competitive award granted through US President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), which offers an opportunity for excellent leaders to spend six weeks in the USA networking and advancing their entrepreneurial skills. Twenty US institutions hosted 25 Fellows each in 2014. Ms. Amnah was part of the group hosted by Arizona State University and completed a Civic Leadership program.

Ms. Ibuni’s plans for the near future include initiating a project in Zanzibar through which she will advocate and lobby for women’s reproductive rights, inheritance rights, and marital rights. Her project will also support programs that assist women in the areas of employment, self-employment, budgeting, and assertiveness.

Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Amnah Ibuni been so successful?

Some key characteristics come to mind:

She is PASSIONATE about GIVING BACK to those who have not had the same opportunities. Ms. Ibuni encourages young people to gain an education so that they may become decision-makers involved in policy making, management, and entrepreneurship.

Ms. Ibuni has A STRONG SENSE OF JUSTICE. Although opportunities for women were limited in Zanzibar, she had the DETERMINATION to find opportunities elsewhere so that she could achieve her academic goals. Ms. Ibuni encourages others not to set mental limits on what they might achieve based on perceived barriers, but to work instead to make positive changes in their communities to make them more inclusive.

By Heidi G. Frontani

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