Paulina Joseph, a 16-year-old girl from a village called Mtitaa, in central Tanzania, has been working hard to eradicate gender-based violence in her community. Paulina, who lives with her mother and two siblings, is in her third year of secondary school. Growing up she saw women and girls in her community held back by gender-based violence, sexual abuse, child marriage and early pregnancy. According to recent research done by Restless Development volunteers in her district, Bahi, over 97% of community members think that gender-based violence is a problem in their community.
If only we had a community free from gender-based violence then all girls would achieve their dreams.Paulina
Paulina wanted to do something to defend their health, rights and dignity. She met Joseph Julius in 2019. Joseph was a young volunteer on the Tutimize Ahadi project, run by Restless Development, which aims to educate Tanzanian communities about gender-based violence, violence against children and the use of family planning.
The Tutimize Ahadi project works with young people aged 18-35, helping them to raise awareness locally and to influence the implementation of Tanzanian government policies. These young people hold decision-makers to account on their commitments to the family planning 2020 agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, hence the programme’s title which translates to ‘Let’s Keep Our Promise.’ The young volunteers and community members conduct research in their own communities and use the data they collect to inform the government about the needs of their communities.
Tutimize Ahadi project taught me about girls’ rights and how to stand for my rights, and that gender based violence is a violation of girls and human rights. It also helps me make safe decisions about my sexual health.
Paulina worked with Joseph to organise a school outreach campaign, in November 2019, about gender based violence and family planning. Working together Pauline and Joseph were able to run a two day training at her school and reach 150 students. After this success Pauline wanted to ensure the education continued so she started a weekly gender club in her school to share her knowledge with other young people both in and out of school.
I have seen many girls drop out of school because of early pregnancy, this will change if they learn about family planning and gender based violence.
Becoming a leader in her community
Thanks to her proactive approach Paulina has become a community leader and has been able to empower other girls to seek help, end abuses and claim their rights. Another community member, Khadija [name changed to protect identity] told her about the sexual violence she had been experiencing in her home and Paulina convinced her to report the incident to the local authorities.
I built confidence in Khadija and told her to report the case to the local authorities, she agreed to report her abuser and now the case is in the hands of the local government authorities and her abuser was arrested.
Paulina is happy to see that through the knowledge she got from Tutimize Ahadi project she is making a difference in her community. She hopes that addressing gender-based violence will help them all to fulfill their dreams. As for her own dreams Paulina’s hoping to become a doctor someday.