Mapitso Matloha is passionate about helping teen girls identify their dreams and making them a reality.
Mathloha, the Limpopo Chairperson of The DreamGirls International Outreach and Mentoring Programme, a registered non-profit organisation focussing on empowering young women and girls through education, found her life’s work in the mentoring of teenage girls.
The programme originated in Nevada, United States of America as the brainchild of two American students who, having completed an internship programme through the Dad Fund in South Africa, recognised the need for more education initiatives in the country. Thus DreamGirls was born with the aim of promoting the enrolment and success of young women in institutions of higher education. This is achieved by utilising successful young women as community role models who empower the girls during workshops in life design (to dream how you want your life and do a scrapbook about it), education, entrepreneurship, leadership and service, health, spiritual wellness, etiquette, grooming and dignity. The mentors uplift the girls and guide them to break the cycle of poverty. The girls also have to do some community work.
Matloha works as a private assistant to a senior public prosecutor at the Mankweng office of the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA).
“Working at the NPA has opened my eyes to a lot of problems young girls coming from a disadvantaged background have. Poverty plays such a big role. They are without information of options open for them. They do not know what the next step could be, for instance that they could go back to school after having had a baby. They quit school at a young age to care for their babies and in the process ruin their future,” she described.
Matloha first heard of DreamGirls when a cousin advised her to go and just listen to what it was about. That was three years back when the programme was launched in Limpopo. Matloha recalled: “I was hooked. However, mentoring was a foreign word to me, and I struggled through my first year. Thereafter it came more naturally and I decided to dedicate my life to the programme. I even stared to raise funds for the programme.”
She said there are at present 14 mentors in Polokwane and that she wished they could find more women wanting to help as she would love for the programme to spread all over the province, to all municipalities and especially rural areas.
“We take on 20 girls each year, but there is a huge need out there. Women are invited to attend a meeting and if they are interested, have a qualification and are not older than 40, they could become mentors.”
She explained that mentoring is like being a sister to the young girls who are mostly in Grades 11 and 12. Things are not done for the girls, instead they are guided and taught that they are the only ones capable of changing their world and background; their futures are in their own hands.
Girls are chosen during road shows when mentors go to schools and the concept explained to female learners. Interested girls then have to complete an application form and submit that along with their results for the past year to a mentor.
“The DreamGirls team of mentors communicate regularly with their mentees, hold regular workshops for them and when it comes to choosing a career, introduce them to women in the field, with whom they could talk or ask questions about their future career. Three of their former mentees are enrolled at the University of Stellenbosch. Matloha, after giving up on her former studies, is now studying part-time towards a qualification in Financial Accountancy.
She mentioned that all expenses are paid for by the mentors but pointed out with gratitude that two local businesses are very supportive of the programme and assist whenever required.
“Young women should realise that it starts now. Yes, there are a lot of challenges, but we are here to help. DreamGirls opened up a whole new world for me, I am so excited about being part of the initiative. It is nothing but fulfilling.”