Devota’s story

I am not the Devota that people used to know.

Before I started to work as a volunteer with Restless Development, I was very shy and lacked the confidence to speak up in front of people. I couldn’t lead a team. I didn’t know my own value or ability to make my community and country a better place.

I used to think that as a young female, I couldn’t stand alone to fight for others.

But Restless Development completely changed my life.

I saw an advert online calling for volunteers for the Tutimize Ahadi (Let’s Keep Our Promise) project.

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I signed up, and was recruited and trained by Restless Development as a Youth Accountability Advocate alongside 12 other young people from Tanzania. We learnt about gender equality, family planning, accountability, volunteerism and youth priorities.

Through training I realised that, as a young person, there is so much I can do to turn the table around for my fellow young people and the development of my community too. The training gave me remarkable skills and confidence to believe in myself that I can do amazing work.

I moved to a rural village within the Iringa district to carry out my work. I learnt how to collect data in the villages on which gender and family planning issues happen here and I used my tablet and special SPS software to record their survey answers.

I did not work alone. Restless Development supported me to recruit and train a team of young changemakers to work with me. They spoke to people in their villages and reported issues of gender based violence back to me calling me on the phone or sending updates via text. Often we stand under the tree and talk about the issues we find.

I used the tablet that Restless Development gave me to collect the information and then I wrote a report every month. It was a new thing to me, but I enjoyed it when we analyzed the data.

In total, we surveyed over 3,000 people in the ward to identify problems and areas for improvement.

Devota with Kafas, a young person she has trained to become a changemaker

We found that with cases concerning early marriage, forced marriage or rape, people can fail to report it because they do not trust that it will be handled well and because its far to travel to the police station where these crimes can be reported.

We also found that there are no youth friendly services concerning sexual health and that many people still believe that if you are unmarried you are not allowed to use contraceptive methods.

Together, alongside the other YAA’s working in Iringa, our changemakers and supporting Restless Development staff, we held an event with the community, local leaders and government officials. We invited the district councillor because he is the one who can make sure action is taken in the communities where we have been conducting the research.

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During this dissemination event we discussed what we had found from our data collection and used it to hold our leaders accountable on the promises our country made concerning gender equality, under Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality and the Family Planning 2020 agreement.

We are advocating for health centers to have a room for young people and staff trained in youth issues and we agreed that police from the gender department need to train people in the villages on how to report and train the local police to handle these cases. They promised that they would work on youth friendly sexual health services.

Devota addressing community and ward leaders at the research findings dissemination event in Iringa

I now join the Ward Development Council meetings where I educate the leaders on the effects of gender-based violence, the importance of family planning and hold them to account on their commitments. Through my efforts, we have seen increased reporting of cases of violence against women and girls and better support from the authorities.

I was also invited to an international meeting with other young people, international experts on issues of gender inequality and family planning and politicians in Rwanda. They supported me to continue holding my leaders accountable. The experience was so good, I had never been out of my country before.

To me the most important part of the project is working with other young people from local villages. They know their communities and the issues happening there. I am the bridge between these young people, organisations and leaders. Even if I move back to where I am from, I will have left my mark through the change makers. They will carry the skills and knowledge even further.

My story is testimony to my fellow youth and community at large that change is possible. Working as a Youth Accountability Advocate with Restless Development has been the greatest opportunity of my life.

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