Their community outreach program has a network of over 2000 Fema activity clubs in schools and universities. Femina Hip educates youth on sexual and reproductive health and rights, economic empowerment, citizen engagement, and gender equality. Their content fosters an entrepreneurial mindset in youth, and encourages young people to become change-makers.
Over the last 20 years, Femina Hip has grown to become the largest civic engagement and popular education platform in Tanzania, and continues to shape the lives of millions of young people across the country.'
Ogunte: What energises you, Minou?
Minou: Yoga, red lips and coffee.
Ogunte: Tell me about Femina HIP and how you are having an impact.
Minou Fuglesang: At Femina Hip, we educate and empower youth through our media vehicles, and our Fema study clubs, which open up an ‘active learning’ space for our audience to engage with our content. Students who connect with our products become ambassadors for our values and lifestyle, sharing their knowledge with their peers and community.
Our Fema clubs and networks are now self-organizing. Young people are championing issues they feel passionate about and educating others: this action is the embodiment of our work. We foster change-makers who go out in their own communities or remain in the Femina Family, since many return to us as volunteers and interns after secondary school, or join our Fema university network.
We follow the lives and journeys of those in our community. Our impact is documented through testimonials, stories of change, letters and text messages we receive, as well as quantitative measures like reach, readership and participation in Fema events.
Ogunte: What is the biggest challenge facing Femina HIP right now?
Minou Fuglesang: Leadership succession. I founded the organization and have been the executive director for the past 20 years. I am preparing to shift into more of a backstage role in the day-to-day operations of Femina, focusing more on long-term strategy and fundraising.
To facilitate this development, I need to focus on strengthening senior management, governance and change management processes, and find a successor.
Ogunte: What are your top tips on how to engage people with your mission?
1) Know your audience. Be conscious of who you are talking to. Respond to them, take a participatory approach. Use their ‘voice’ when creating content; be approachable and fun so that they can identify and feel empowered.
2) Stick with what you know, but also keep up with the trends. Our Fema print magazine is still our key media vehicle and an incredibly successful way to get our information out to youth across Tanzania who do not yet have access to online sources. On top of this, however, we have expanded to increase our presence on radio, TV, and social media. To stay connected, visible and relevant, stick with what you know works and explore new platforms.
3) Make it entertaining! Say you want to teach people how to register their business. If you don’t inject some life into it, people will glaze over and move on to the next thing. Transforming the serious and tedious into fun, engaging content is our bread and butter. People want to learn, but they also want to be entertained. When you combine the two, you create a platform that people can connect with and enjoy, so they will keep coming back for more!
Without their own income [young women] had difficulties negotiating safe sex.
Ogunte: Could you tell us about a pivotal moment in Femina HIP’s story when you realized you needed to change direction? What did you learn from this?
Minou Fuglesang: Femina started up during the height of the HIV epidemic, so we focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and HIV/AIDs awareness and prevention. We pioneered ‘open talk’ on these sensitive issues to meet the urgent need for sex education among youth in Tanzania.
As time went on and our audience base grew, we received more and more requests to cover topics like employment and money issues. Young people wanted education on how to generate income, entrepreneurship and setting up businesses. They wanted employability skills. Young women were particularly adamant, since without their own income they had difficulties negotiating safe sex. We knew we needed to listen and act in response to these requests.
Responding to the needs of our audience has always been a priority for Femina Hip, so we got to work to expand our content agenda. Ten years into Femina’s journey, economic empowerment was added to the agenda, and we managed to secure funding to sustain our increasingly holistic strategy. We have been running with our audience ever since, listening and striving to equip an entire generation of young Tanzanians with the knowledge to protect themselves and the skills to generate income.
The positive feedback we received after this shift confirmed how essential it is to keep up with the beat of our audience and respond to their wants and needs, as well as work ‘holistically’. As an organization, we exist to help young people become healthy, successful change-makers in their society. While there are topics that are always important to cover, it is key to be constantly evolving, and adapting to the reality of their lives.
Ogunte: What qualities do the best mentors share?
Minou Fuglesang: Mentors must be patient, understanding, trustworthy, and motivating, but also critical. They know how to offer constructive input in a way that builds people up instead of putting them down.
The best mentors shape their role based on their mentee. The same advice doesn’t apply to everyone and the best way to raise people up is to understand where they are starting from and work from there.
Ogunte: If you could travel back in time to when you were starting out on your journey, what advice would you give yourself?
Minou Fuglesang: Keep on moving! You know what you are doing and you are building a great team. This work will be life-changing, so, don’t listen to sceptics!
Ogunte: Finally, who are three women whose work inspires you?
1) Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), Kenyan environmental and political activist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
2) Jane Goodall, British primatologist and animal rights advocate.
3) Oprah Winfrey.
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