Equipping girls as role models and change makers

The Dutch embassy in Mozambique runs a program that perfectly aligns with the Youth at Heart strategy, and something we would love to expand to other countries. The embassy gives young women aged 18-25 the opportunity to become ambassador for a day to encourage young leadership.

Group picture in Mozambique
The first Youth Advisory Board at the Dutch Embassy in Mozambique together with Elsbeth Akkerman (ambassador) and Pascalle Grotenhuis .

The story of Cândida Geraldo

At the age of 14, Cândida Geraldo from Mozambique got into a traditional marriage, hoping to live of the bride give bound to be provided by her new husband. However, her life took a harsh turn when she faced coercive control and abuse from her husband, denying her education, and subjecting her to psychological and physical abuse.

Bravely, Cândida turned her life around and ran away from the relationship. With help of a scholarship, she continued her studies at a secondary school in Gorongosa. Because of this brave move, she is now a facilitator of a girl’s club where she advises girls about staying in school and pursuing higher education – drawing on her own experiences.

After being the ‘Ambassador for a Day 2023’ – an initiative spearheaded by the Dutch Embassy in Mozambique – she is further empowered to pursue her dreams; fostering a new wave of female leaders of the future. The story of Cândida Geraldo exemplifies the underlying challenges around child marriage – rooted in gender inequality.

Netherlands in Mozambique for gender equality

In a country where nearly one in two girls are married before the age of 18, this story also shows the need for women empowerment. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Mozambique is a dedicated advocate for gender equality, empowerment, and meaningful participation of young people, including women and adolescent girls.

Through various initiatives, the Dutch embassy in Maputo aims to unleash the potential of Mozambican girls through fostering a brighter and more inclusive future. Two important initiatives that the embassy has launched (and which have been adopted by other diplomatic missions) are the Ambassador for a Day initiative and the Youth Advisory board.

Mozambique women
Ambassador for a Day Cândida Geraldo.

The ‘Ambassador for a Day’ initiative

‘Ambassador for a Day’ is an initiative where the Dutch, Swedish, British, Canadian, and Finish female ambassadors in Mozambique give the opportunity to young Mozambican women aged 18-25 to shadow as an ambassador for one day.

Especially in relation to the International Women’s Month celebration it is important to highlight this initiative, as it shows young women’s leadership potential and advocate for change and promote gender equality. The initiative promotes women’s equal and effective participation in political decision-making, which unfortunately remains a global challenge.

Similarly, Mozambican women are also underrepresented in politics, government, business leadership and society. Through ‘Ambassador for a Day’, young Mozambican women have the opportunity to enhance their ambition, motivation and momentum – fostering a new wave of female leaders for the future.  

Meaningful youth participation through the embassies’ Youth Advisory Board

Besides the ‘Ambassador for a Day’ initiative, the Dutch Embassy in Mozambique continuously invests in meaningful and inclusive youth participation. Through the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) – consisting of seven youth representatives from diverse background – the embassy seeks to include the voices of the youth within their policies and programs. The YAB provides (solicited and unsolicited) input on new programs, participates in meetings and project visits, and gives advice to the embassy to foster youth-inclusive programs and projects Top of Form.

The initiatives of the Dutch Embassy in Mozambique are just two examples that show the great commitment to supporting young people so that they can reach their full potential. As such, it provides an accessible way for young people to imagine themselves as future leaders.

And Candida? She continues her journey, after completing a tailor course through Young Africa. She has a dream to become a nurse. Today, on International Women’s Day, let’s applaud her accomplishments and view her resilience and determination as an inspiration to millions of young women and adolescent girls.