“My community needs me, now is not the time to back off.”
Karim is a 27 year old young leader from Tanzania.
He got involved with Restless Development Tanzania in 2015 under our Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) project which aimed to create space for Tanzanian citizens, particularly marginalized women and young people to engage fully in the 2015 elections.
The project volunteers worked with young people to encourage them to see politics as their domain and ran focus groups with first-time voters in schools as well as sport and cultural ‘bonanzas’ encouraging peaceful elections. 300,000 SMS messages were also sent out to remind young people about the voting process and how they could participate.
Karim says, “through the project, I learnt how important it is for young people to participate in matters that concern us and influence changes we want to see in the world. I always wanted to become a changemaker and I knew this was the beginning of my journey.”
Later in 2017, Karim joined the project as a volunteer. By this point, the project had adapted to train young people on leadership and how to use research to collaborate with the government to improve the implementation of youth related services.
I was able to use data as a weapon to raise awareness and convince government officials on the inclusion of women and young people in decision making.
Because of his strong commitment to seek information and represent youth priorities, Karim has built a good relationship with his local government and participates in local government meetings to represent young people’s priorities.
Karim has also formed a youth network in his community called Mtandao wa Vijana Morogoro (Morogoro Youth Network), as a way to bring young people together, discuss their challenges and look after their community.
One of these young people is Lazaro. It was hard for Lazaro to engage in social activities because he did not have a wheelchair to support him. To help Lazaro, Morogoro Youth Network decided to donate money to buy Lazaro a wheelchair to enable him to participate fully in community life.
Now in the face of COVID-19, Karim is taking action to raise awareness and protect his community against the pandemic.
I decided to start a campaign to fight for COVID 19 prevention services for people living with disabilities because people living with disabilities have more health care needs, and policies on healthcare must favor them. So far, I have reached 9 young people living with disabilities and educate them on how to stay safe.
Karim does a lot to support those in his community living with disabilities and he has been recognised for it by his community, with local government officials recently appointing him as a representative for people living with disabilities.
“This is a good opportunity for me to convince my government to remove barriers people living with disability face in accessing health services and hygiene products,” Karim says.
“I have also reached other groups such as children and boda-boda (motorcycle drivers) and spread preventative covid-19 messages on the radio.
After emphasizing the importance of handwashing to the motorcycle drivers, the drivers decided to buy a bucket where they keep clean water and soap to wash their hands at the area where they wait for passengers.
In this time of crisis, Karim’s credentials as a young leader have been put to the test but he has risen to the challenge.
My community needs me, now is not the time to back off.
Like all good leaders, Karim leads by example.