Feature Story

Young People Reaching Out to the Most Vulnerable

12 April 2017

Young people of Tanzania are not sitting by waiting for social progress; the young people UNFPA works with are pro-active members of society who want to see change. Sada Mohamed Zahran is a volunteer with UNFPA partner Zanzibar Youth Education Environment Development Support Association (ZAYEDESA), in Pemba working as an Outreach Peer Educator (OPE).

“When I heard that I was picked work with ZAYEDESA I was delighted. The organisation is well respected and appreciated in the community here, especially among young people like myself, so it was really an honour to have been picked.”

OPEs assist ZAYEDESA on its UNFPA-funded programme targeting Key Populations at risk of HIV (KPs). In Zanzibar, the KPs are female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and injecting drug users (IDUs). These groups are generally at a much higher risk of contracting HIV with a prevalence rate of 10-15%, compared to the general population rate of less than 1%. ZAYEDESA works through Youth Friendly Centres where young people have access to bias-free information and guidance around their sexual and reproductive health and rights from trained counsellors and health workers, as well as having a free space to meet other youth, hang out and have fun.

“The first thing we had to do was map all the ‘hotspots’ of where KPs live and work, and we focused on FSWs. In Pemba, we found 3 hotspots. As soon as we knew where to go, we began our outreach work, which I believe really changes lives. We do a range of things – we do HIV testing and counselling, drama performances and cinema shows to raise awareness on HIV and stigma, group therapy sessions with FSWs, and we hold Community Dialogue sessions with community leaders and the media to reduce stigma. I have seen with my own eyes how this really works. I have met so many vulnerable FSWs who knew nothing about HIV, STIs, or family planning, and now they are attending the therapy sessions, getting tested and using condoms.”

UNFPA has been supporting ZAYEDESA for more than 5 years both directly and through the Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC) on HIV prevention focusing on reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. With our support, ZAYEDESA has reached thousands of people including youth who are at risk of contracting HIV with information and messages on how to protect themselves from all STIs.

“I am really very proud of the work ZAYEDESA does and so glad to be part of the team here.  If we can end stigma and educate everyone on the importance of getting tested and treated for HIV, I believe we can make Pemba, and the rest of Zanzibar a healthier, happier place for everyone!”