Media for Development and Advocacy (MEDEA Tanzania) is currently implementing its one-year Sauti Zetu Project which focuses on raising community understanding on the existing Tanzania marriage law of 1971 and its implications on girls’ right to education. The project is funded by Malala Fund, and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania is adding force as an implementing partner through its Ministry of President’s Office — Regional Administration and Local Government. In the last two weeks, a gender-balanced team of four project executors was in the Tabora region, implementing the project in the districts of Sikonge and Igunga.
Join us as we take you through the Tabora journey, lessons learned and the outcomes that the project has brought to the people of Tabora.
In a paragraph, Tabora is an enormously blessed Tanzania vibrant region with large productive land and energetic residents. It is by far the largest region in Tanzania by area. Most of the population in the region is concentrated in the north in the Nzega district; the region is largely populated by the dominant Sukuma tribe and the Nyamwezi. Despite being the largest region in the country by area, Tabora Region was the 11th largest economy in Tanzania with a regional GDP of TSh.4.7 trillion/= in 2018. Tabora region contributes 3.7% to the national economy. It has a GDP per capita of US$2,185 (PPP), ranking 19/23 on the mainland.
Statistically, the region holds the second position in the rank of Tanzanian regions with the highest prevalence rate of child marriage. It is one of the factors which contributes to hindering the social and economic development of the people of Tabora, especially the girls who are largely and directly affected by the practice (child marriage). Furthermore, it is also among the reasons which made MEDEA Tanzania consider the Tabora region as one of the four regions (Tabora, Lindi, Mtwara, and Kigoma) where the Sauti Zetu project is being implemented.
The Sauti Zetu project kicked off on the 1st of May 2022, initiated by film production and media campaigns. The journey to Tabora began on the 3rd of July 2022, whereby a team of project executors from MEDEA Tanzania embarked on the quest to contribute to ending child marriage in the region. The team arrived safely and well in the Tabora region at 8:00 pm the same day. It had an introductory meeting with the Regional Administrative Secretary on the following day, to introduce the project to the regional administration; followed by a media visit at Tabora’s vibrant radio, the CG FM.
The first week took place in the Sikonge District, where several planned project interventions took place, including Reflective leadership meetings with the local government Authorities, Recruitment of Young girls advocates, a Baseline survey, and finalized by two major film screenings. After the screenings, the team took some time to collect feedback from the audience who got the opportunity to watch the film, which is the key driver of the Sauti Zetu Project. The comments were:
Due to the challenges depicted in the film, where young ladies become prey to males due to a lack of pocket money, Aziza Juma Ally, Village Executive Officer of Ukanga village in Sikonge said; she can relate to that part because, even in her area, schools are far from the residence, resulting in young girls walking a long distance and on their way they may face temptation from males.
And ACP and Community Engagement Officer in Igunga district police force Idda John, acknowledged the existence of the problem of child marriage in her district and praised the project, saying that they have been fighting it for a long time and it is encouraging to see others joining in the fight.
“I didn’t simply go to watch the film, but I went to do an evaluation to see if the message in the film may help to educate the community, I was fortunate to witness how the real-life experiences of the children in the film affected the community. I observed adults condemning themselves for exposing children to a life that is not suitable for them”.
Without forgetting the youth, MEDEA Tanzania spoke with Mariam issa, a student at Tutuo Secondary School, who warned parents who destroy their children’s dreams since they don’t know what the future holds.
”Parents shouldn’t be that obsessed with money because they have no idea what they subject young girls to, and worst of all, they force them out of schools, which is their human right,” she said.
On the 10th of July, the team arrived in the Igunga district. The activities flow was the same as that of Sikonge District; Reflective leadership meetings with the local government Authorities, Recruitment of Young girls advocates, Baseline survey and finalized by two major film screenings. Igunga district is more developed and resourced compared to the Sikonge district. Differently from Sikonge, in Igunga the team had an opportunity of meeting the District’s Traditional leaders. These are the leaders of the ethnic who are highly praised and hold power and influence over the particular ethnicity group. Apart from that, the team also considered reaching more outskirts, whereby in Igunga the team managed to reach the Mwajoja village of Mbutu Ward which is largely affected by child marriages.
One of the lessons learned from the Tabora region is that ending child marriage should not only focus on the practice, it should also focus on changing people’s behavior. The Sikonge and Igunga communities are by far influenced and affected by the patriarchal system; this can even be noticed when looking at the so-called ‘Viongozi wa Kimila’ (traditional leaders), they are only men, some can ask themselves if women aren’t affected by the traditions to the point that they should not be considered on the leadership positions of the particular ethnicity group!
Another lesson learned is that people are moved by the law that it is illegal to marry a child who is still in school, which means that they do not consider it morally wrong and would marry those girls if there was no law to hold them accountable.
When it comes to enabling young girls to be a part of our project so that even when we are away, they can carry on the battle to halt child marriages that we started in their communities; We are grateful that we have girls who are enthusiastic about it, and their parents have shown their support, saying that it would be wonderful if others could learn from their children.
Working with local governments has only taught us patience. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, to put it mildly. You know what they say, ‘NO SIZE FITS ALL.’ Maybe we imagined that the approach of working with local government would be the same in both districts at some time. It was easy when we were in Sikonge since the leaders understood what we were doing and fell in line quickly, but things got a little tense when we got to Igunga, but we are grateful that things finally worked in our favor and we completed our job in that part.
This was our first intervention, but it would not be the last in our contribution to put an end to child marriage. We are looking forward to doing even better in the remaining 3 regions.