Idd Rajabu Mziray is a trainer of women empowement and gender equality projects. He is also executive director of GAI Tanzania and a member of Men EngageTanzania. This week we met with him to talk about the Gender and Adolescence Initiative (GAI); their projects, gender equality, vocational training for adolescent girls.
Can you briefly tell us about the Gender and Adolescence Initiative?
Gender and Adolescence Initiative (GAI) formally Community Focus on teen and Single Mothers welfare (CFTSW), was founded in 2016 as a community group to progress the rights of girls and address their absence as beneficiaries of, and decision-makers in development. Our purpose was to prioritize partnership between girls and boys and respect for girl’s capacity, agency, and human rights of girls in all areas of development priorities which remain at the core of our work today.
GAI was later registered in 2018 under the NGO Act No 24/2002, to be a Non-Governmental Organisation that envisioned the empowered and informed Adolescent girls and young women, and increased its area of operations to be Tanzania mainland.
GAI works in three thematic areas which includes
- Girls Right and Gender Equality
- Sexual Reproductive health and Rights and,
- Economic empowerment to Adolescent Mothers
Do you have any projects for adolescent pregnancy?
Yes: GAI Tanzania is running a Girls hub program which is known as Girls Hub season one “Know your Health through Arts”: Through ‘Girls’ Hub,’ we create a space for teenage girls to come together and have fun after school once a week. This is in the community, where girls are free to drop-in and use the space to study, read play games, and develop a peer support network. We teach them the performing arts and develop their 21st-century skills like communication, creativity, empathy, critical thinking. Dance, music, theatre, then serves as a channel to teach them comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). CSE includes menstruation, child sexual abuse, anatomy, and functions of sexual organs, support through puberty, gender and sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, marriage and prevention of early pregnancy, female genital mutilation, body positivity, and sex-positivity. Confidence and knowledge about sexuality, enable girls to make informed decisions about their sexual health including preventing early and unwanted pregnancies, and raise their educational and health outcomes.
How about vocational training and empowerment projects initiated for young mothers… Can they be sustainable?
Apart from Girls Hub season one, we also have: She is the voice” hub, a hub for adolescent mothers economic empowerment program. This program is running through our center in Kishapu-District, Shinyanga Region. The aim is to empower adolescent mothers with employability skills which will help them to be economically independent and help them raise income that will sustain themselves and their families. In these centers, we provide them with the training in their choices and not what we chose for them.
For us, this project will be sustainable because it is innovative and attracts many girls to come to our centers. Many organizations do the same work but selected for the girls what they should be skilled with, but for us, we invite them to fill our survey forms first in which they say what they wish to be trained with us and we train them as per their choices. This has ensured the sustainability of our project for almost two years now. The courses that we have trained them with as of today are
- Young women journalists
- Chicken keeping and,
- Personal branding and digital marketing
For the coming years, we are thinking to equip them with technologies such as film making, film directors, and graphics and content designing.
“The societal pressure demotivates women”
What is the biggest challenge of gender/ women empowerment projects in Africa?
I think the major challenges that hinder gender equality and women empowerment programs in Africa are the traditions of African people in which women are considered as “homemakers” and not” businesswomen, politicians or even workers” who can go out and tackle the obstacles of carrying out a business or any activities of their own and do all the stress handling. Women in Africa are bound to remain within the realm of their home. This mainstream thinking pulls them back to ground zero. The societal pressure demotivates them before even starting their path towards achieving their goals.
But also leaving men behind during the gender empowerment programs has proven to be a challenge because we find ourselves empowering more women forgetting that men have the power to decide what women should do in our community. therefore we need to ensure that we engage men as much as possible with the same gender empowerment we are investing in women.
“Men should take part in challenging negative masculinity”
What are the roles of boys and men in achieving gender equality?
Gender Equality is still often considered a “women’s issue”. Furthermore, in the past, gender issues and gender equality policies have been contextualized mainly as a women’s issue. However, men have boys and men have a role to play if we want to achieve gender equality.
- Men must take joint responsibility with women for the promotion of gender equality” making “contributions to gender equality in their many capacities, including as individuals, members of families, social groups and communities, and in all spheres of society”.
- Men must begin by acknowledging the privileges we have been born into as a result of the patriarchy — the system of society and government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. The patriarchal system has historically placed the masculine at the center of the universe, favoring men and excluding women. Men have a role to start knowing that this power imbalance is wrong for them to play a role in ensuring gender equality.
- Men should take part in challenging Negative masculinity. In its most extreme form, negative or ‘toxic’ masculinity is discrimination, subjugation, or violence towards the feminine. This has led to high inequality between males and females because of their gender identity or expression.
- Unfortunately, men under patriarchy have tended to massively underestimate girls’ and women’s power to create change and to benefit the whole community. Therefore it is our role, as progressive boys and men, to share those spaces that patriarchy has granted us and promote girls’ and women’s leadership.
How about beneficiary girls; how they benefit from your counseling?
All of our projects contribute to the following;
- Reducing maternal mortality rate to less that 50% of birth from teenage and young women
- Increased access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services including family planning, information, educations and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs
- Young women/mothers and communities that are supported by GAI have strong voices and power in individual and collective economic outcomes including ownership and access to resources.
- GAI has increased economic activities and empowerment to teenage and young mothers and eradicated poverty and economic dependency among young women.
- The rights to education among girls have increased to include getting girls to school with a safe environment and help them stay there.
- Young girls' protection and strengthened girls' safety and security has increased.
- Girls’ networks and girls' right movements building programs have aggregated and amplified girl’s rights and power.
- Annually generated evidence about how change towards girls right and gender equality happens to inform and influence individual and institutions
In which regions you run projects?
We are running our project in Shinyanga Regions, however, we work all over Tanzania mainland and our headquarters are located in Dar es salaam Tanzania.
Do you get any reaction from the men and elders of the society while your gender equality projects?
Yes: Men are part and parcel of our programs, we usually involve religious, traditional, and influential people in the community for them to buy in our gender equality programs. This has proved a success in some of the projects which include behavior-changing projects.
Can anyone volunteer ın your projects?
Yes: We always welcome volunteers who are committed to ensuring that the organization meets its intended goals. However, it is subject to checks and balances on the needs of the organization for that time. For example, now we are seeking volunteers who are experienced in project writing and financial management.
Are you running your projects with donations or funds?
We run our programs through
- Grants and funds
- Membership contributions
How the pandemic affected your studies, have you followed a different strategy in this process?
Yes: our organization activities were affected by the pandemic such as COVID 19 for example
- Operations were hampered by restrictions on physical meeting around March 2020 to May 2020 where the government resumed the meetings
- There were also concerned about keeping program staff and volunteers safe and operating as many programs were burned
- Many donors also closed the offices for social distancing purposes and this hindered our smoothy operations as we mostly depend on donors