Kijana wa Leo, Sexual, Reproductive Health & Rights in Tanzania
Sexuality and the right to reproductive health are fundamental human rights and fundamental to a healthy society. However, many governments fail to provide adequate services and enforce health policies and laws that work for all. Young people, and especially young women, are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of poor services and support in making positive personal choices. Amref Health Africa is working to change this, breaking the cycle of poor attainment and extreme poverty.
This issue is particularly acute in Tanzania where, over the last decade, 50,000 girls have had their education terminated when they were expelled from school for becoming pregnant. Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. Girls become pregnant as young as 10-years-old, ending their own childhood long before they have even reached their teens. Although free primary education and access to secondary education is a right for all children in Tanzania, a mass of legal and cultural factors prevent the realisation of this right in the case of girls who become pregnant. Traditional rites of passage encourage girls to have sex and marry years before the legal age of consent. Moreover, girls often have a fundamental lack of ownership of their own sexual health and agency, which is reinforced by harmful traditional practices such as FGM and forced marriage. Inadequate sexual education in school and poor, youth-unfriendly health services therefore jeopardise the future of thousands of schoolgirls every year.
Our Bright Futures programme – funded by Allen & Overy, Big Lottery Fund and the Faroe Islands Trust – is working to ensure positive futures for young women in two of Tanzania’s poorest rural communities – Meatu District in the northern region of Simiyu and Handeni District in the eastern Tanga Region. By working with young people in the context of their peer groups we are enabling them to make informed decisions around sex and pregnancy. We work with teachers to ensure they provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive education, and train healthcare workers to establish youth-friendly services that are available when young people need them. These activities are also combined with focused advocacy, seeking to implement changes at all levels, from the grassroots community up to national policy.
Amref Health Africa’s work with young people is all about empowerment. Engaged, educated and healthy youth will help break multi-generational extreme poverty, increase societal resilience and, as skilled and informed citizens, contribute to strengthening their communities in the long term.
For more information about the projects Allen & Overy and Amref UK support in Handeni and Meatu, take a look at this short video.