Devota, 26, has been trained as an Accountability Advocate alongside 38 other young people across India and Tanzania. They are holding their leaders to account on the promises they made, both to achieving gender equality in the global goals and to improving Family Planning in the FP202 agreement.
Here Devota explains her role as an advocate in achieving gender equality in Tanzania.
“Recently I finished my education and dreamed of supporting women and girls in my country. I saw an advert online calling for volunteers for the Tutimize Ahadi (Promise Keepers) project.
The aim of the project is to collect information about gender inequality issues in different communities, holding our leaders accountable on the promises they made concerning gender equality, under the Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality and Family Planning 2020 agreement.
I signed up, was recruited and trained by Restless Development as an Accountability Advocate alongside 12 other young people. We learnt about gender equality, family planning, accountability, volunteerism and youth priorities.
I used to live in Iringa town but I moved to a rural village within the Iringa district to carry out my work as an Accountability Advocate. I learnt how to survey people in the villages on which gender and family planning issues happen here. I visit people in their homes and use my tablet to record their survey answers. People in the village trust me and are happy to talk to me.
In every village in my district I have trained other young people called changemakers. Their role is to speak to people in their villages and report issues of gender based violence back to me. They use their phones to call me and send updates via text. Often we stand under the tree and talk about the issues we have found.
Devota with Kafas, a young person she has trained to become a changemaker
Every month I use my tablet to collect the information and then I write a report. It was a new thing to me, but I enjoyed it when we have analyzed the data.
Sometimes we find there are cases concerning early marriage, forced marriage or rape. But people can fail to report it because it's not accepted within their society. It's also very far to travel to the nearest police station where these crimes can be reported.
We also found that there are no youth friendly services concerning sexual health. Many people still believe that if you are unmarried you are not allowed to use contraceptive methods. We are advocating for health centers to have a room for young people and staff trained in youth issues.
Together we held a meeting with local leaders and the government. During this meeting we discussed what I had found from my surveys. 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.
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 her local leaders at the dissemination event
We are now working with other partners like Marie Stopes who provide family planning services to people.
Because of the work I have been doing in the community, I was invited to a 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 because 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.
In our society the men are given priority so we are fighting to make sure society understands the equality of men and women. I am determined to support women and girls to achieve the future they dream of. I hope one day to run an empowerment initiative for women and girls.”