Posted on 20 March 2020

“I don’t know how my life would have been if I hadn’t gotten a scholarship. I got to a point where I was sure I couldn’t go to the university which was my long desired dream. Like a light at the end of the tunnel I begun seeing my dream coming true through WWF’s Girls Scholarship programme. I have never looked back and here I am ready to give back to my community and nature through my knowledge”, narrates Mwanema Athumani (24)
Living around the Mafia Island Marine Park, Mwanema had the advantage of learning from WWF marine interventions very early in life.
“Growing up in a small island like Mafia, the ocean was my life, the beach was actually my play ground and I enjoyed every moment. I grew up seeing my people benefitting from the ocean in so many ways. Some as fishermen and others as business people by the beach. Our lives literally entirely depended on the ocean. But most of us were poor. When I was in school WWF started working in Mafia around Marine Conservation, my interest in marine conservation was ignited. I wanted to learn more about the ocean and conservation. In short I wanted to be able to help my community benefit even more and improve their livelihoods through sustainable use of the ocean”.
Committed to her dreams, Mwanema began volunteering in her school environment clubs and working close with WWF field staff. She was an active member with questions and an enthusiasm of it kind in environmental activities.
“Her passion to work in conservation has never changed. She was among the most persistent and knowledge thirsty girls I ever came across. She would come to our office or stop us on the road to ask for books, brochures or any matter concerning conservation. She is a home-grown champion and people listen and respect her for that. Giving access to education for girls like Mwanema is a sustainable way to restore marine ecology, fight climate change, reduce poverty, and to creating a balance world’’ states Lydia Mwakanema WWF Marine Program Officer who worked with Mwanema during her school days in Mafia.
Coming from a middle-class family of six, life was never all rosy and getting through schooling was not easy although Mwanema’s parents put in a lot of efforts to see their daughter attain her dream. Mwanema was a diligent student passing through her exams with easy until she completed her high level education in 2016 at Kondoa Secondary School in Dodoma.
The challenges started really after high school as her parents could no longer support her to the university. That is when she got back to her roots and turned to WWF especially their girls Education programme and applied for a scholarship. The rest in history, she is now a graduate with a Bachelor Degree in Wildlife Management from Sokoine University of Agriculture.
Speaking on her future plans the graduate who interns at WWF Mafia office plans to stay in her community and help in conservation work.
“When I was growing up the ocean was productive and healthy. Things have changed a lot, it is no longer the same, we have lost our coral reefs, fish, breeding grounds and I see I can be of great help there with my just acquired knowledge. I would like to see the ocean going back to its original state and She says
“Communities like mine are losing their livelihood and so does the marine ecosystem. We need to build resilience otherwise both people and nature will meet a terrible end. I am here to help my community and other coastal communities. With my knowledge, I want to be among the people who are acting not only speaking of the challenges.’’ she reveals
“I will mobilize more young people, women and men to conserve our marine resources. I do hope WWF will have another scholarship program as we need more young conservationists and this can only happen with support and empowerment to them”.  
 Speaking on the importance of engaging women in natural resources management. Mwanema believes access to education will make women more effective as custodians of nature.
“I will like to encourage girls and women all over the world to see they have a role to protect and benefit from their natural resources. They should grab any opportunity to learn more, do more, lead -empower themselves because women are actually closely tied to nature. When nature suffers women suffer more. I will do my part to inspire women and girls in conservation’’ she concluded with a smile.
The Girls Scholarship Program   goal was to fight poverty through girl’s education The scholarship program which was implemented through Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa (RUMAKI) program has successful supported more than 53 girls from low income communities to achieve their education goals between 2013- 2016 .It is understandable that when a girl is educated, her health, status, income, and entire future changes for the better, and she’ll go on to educate her  family and community. The ripple effects are incredible – and best of all, everyone in her community will benefit!