AU grad addresses U.S. Africa Summit

Two women inspired Ilda Massuanganhe Guambe’s passion to educate girls—her mother, who was the first woman United Methodist pastor in Mozambique, and her cousin, who was forced into marriage at age 13.

That passion put Guambe, a 2011 graduate of Africa University in Zimbabwe, on center stage for a few minutes during the 2014 U.S. Africa Summit in Washington on Aug. 6.

She told the gathering, which included First Lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush, and several first ladies from African countries, that she was a proud African woman from a remote rural village.

“I come from a family of nine and was the first girl child to earn a degree,” she said. “I was fortunate because I had a scholarship to study.”

Guambe got scholarship support from the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference and from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. She graduated from United Methodist-related Africa University, with a degree in business and management.

The executive secretary to the ambassador of Finland in Maptuo, Mozambique, she was one of 500 participants selected for the inaugural Young African Leaders Initiative fellowship program announced by President Obama after a visit he made to Africa in 2010. The initiative supports young African leaders who are working to enhance growth and prosperity, peace, security and democratic governance on the continent of Africa.

At the end of her leadership training at Yale University, she was selected for an eight-week internship in Washington.

When she completes her training, she plans to promote trainings and workshops for rural women and girls in Mumemo-Marracuene District. She wants to mentor girls on the consequences of early marriages.

A dream for girls

“In my village, girls don’t have a voice, they don’t make decisions. People say girls should support their husbands and raise children,” she said during her speech at the summit.

Then she told the story of her cousin, now 22 and the mother of four children. At age 13, the girl was forced to forfeit her education and her future because her parents needed the money they would get in exchange for her marriage to a man of 51 with two other wives and 11 children. Her father was dying from HIV/AIDS. Now her parents and the man she married are all dead. She is left with the two other wives who do not care about her, Guambe said.

“My passion to fight for girl’s education was motivated by her,” Guambe said.

She wants to help girls like her cousin—rural girls whose education was cut short—go back to school and become independent.

Guambe said her family of nine was actually much bigger – about 20 – because her mother took in rural children and educated them. Some of those children are now holding important jobs in the community, she said.

“I need to pay back. I need to do something for others. I want to leave a legacy.”

Andra Stevens, communications director for Africa University contributed to this report. Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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