“When I wake up, I write to do tasks for the day. I make sure my passion is in whatever is my task, and my passion is always young people.”
Aisha is 24 years old and lives and works as a volunteer in Makole ward in Dodoma municipality in Tanzania. Teenage pregnancies, HIV, gender based violence (GBV) and violence against children (VAC) are very common.
Since 2018 she has been working to change that.
Aisha works with other young people she recruits from villages in Makole ward called ‘changemakers’ who raise awareness, change community behaviour and influence leaders to take up their recommendations and solve issues for good.
Collecting data to advocate for change.
Aisha says her advocacy relies on evidence.
“Without the data you can’t validate what you’re saying.”
The data that Aisha and her changemakers collect helps build a picture of the issues that residents in Makole ward face, and helps them decide what demands to take to their local leaders.
“We collected [survey] data and analysed it. [We found that] young people wanted their services tailored to them and that many residents weren’t aware of the services, so we knew there was a gap. The government says there is but the residents say there isn’t.
“In Makole ward, there are so many young people, and high risks of sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies. The secondary school in Makole is the leading school for dropouts due to pregnancy.”
“So with more trained health care workers in the clinic, with a service being there, it helps young people, reducing the [HIV] infection rate and early pregnancies”
“We had a meeting with community members, local leaders, decision makers, the district medical officer and health care workers where we presented our findings and the challenges.
“From there we had a discussion so that each [leader] could pick a challenge and create a commitment out of it.”
“It was successful because the district medical officer committed to putting all our demands into the budget.”
This included training staff at the local health clinic to provide youth-friendly services.
“Before our findings there were 4 [staff trained], now 11 are trained to provide youth-friendly services.”
“So with more trained health care workers in the clinic, with a youth friendly service being there, it helps young people by reducing the [HIV] infection rate and early pregnancies.”
“We also organised meetings with young people to encourage more young people to use the services.”
The health clinic says they have gone from receiving 40 young people to 150 young people per month.
Adapting to COVID-19.
“My work is all about training, gathering information, campaigns and being out there so with lockdown measures, I have not been able to do my work as planned. I cannot be out there gathering and giving out information to the people I want to reach most, the people who don’t have access to the internet or a phone.”
“It also completely affected my daily routine. I had to change my way of living. It was hard for me. I was overwhelmed. But later on, I did adjust.
“First of all, I changed my focus to be more relevant to community needs at this time. I reached out to people by phone and online, educating them on COVID-19, and gender based violence and violence against children, and how to support others who they think might be going through that situation.
“I was able to reach out to many people and give them the right information on what to do and what not to do. I’m really proud of this. Me and the changemakers were working hard to reach out to people who needed the right information.
“With the pandemic, I thought [the changemakers] would be shaken by it but they stood really good and I am very proud [of them].
“I also ran a campaign in partnership with university students in Dar es Salaam. I asked them to talk with their classmates to donate funds to buy hand sanitisers, masks and liquid hand washing soaps. We donated these to the municipal to give it to people in the markets who must go out to work to survive.
“This was a big achievement: we kept people safe.”
“Things are slowly getting back to normal now. I plan to carry on and finish what I didn’t do because of the pandemic. It is going to be so much work but with the new challenges that COVID-19 has brought, I think it is an opportunity for me to show my community what I can do as a young person.”
Aisha’s work is part of Restless Development’s Youth Led Accountability for Gender Equality programme, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The programme has trained, more than 100 Youth Accountability Advocates and 388 young Changemakers in Tanzania and India, who engage with their peers, communities and local and national governments to build a movement that drives progress towards gender equality.