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"Decisions about the future cannot be made without those who will live in it," says Frank, one of the 16 new members recruited to UNFPA Tanzania’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) in May this year.  Gertrude, a fellow YAP member, nods in agreement.  She feels young people are ready to take ownership of what is happening in the world. They are both committed to ensuring that young people across the country are universally able to enjoy their rights – including their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – and as part of YAP continually advise UNFPA to ensure that programmes and policies in Tanzania adequately address youth’s needs and concerns.

The past year has been an incredibly difficult time for youth in Tanzania – and around the world –but in the face of unparalleled challenges they are not giving up.  On the contrary Tanzania’s youth are not only calling for change – they are the change. 

Leading in communities

Joseph is a member of the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population & Development (AfriYAN) in Kigoma – one of 11 chapters of the youth-led network that UNFPA is working with, and supporting, across Tanzania.  Since COVID-19 reached Tanzania’s shores in March 2020, Joseph and fellow members have been working tirelessly to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention and transmission and ensuring that youth continue to access sexual and reproductive health services using radio, TV, digital platforms and youth influencers to spread the word. Last year they set up a youth hub at one of the three UNFPA-supported adolescent and youth-friendly corners in Nyarugusu refugee camp where youth could pick up free condoms and information on COVID-19 and HIV prevention, care and treatment through a self-service facility. 

Shaping the future

Karlien Truyens/UNFPA. Tanzania’s youth are not only calling for change – they are the change.

Life for Tanzania’s youth is not without its daily challenges, particularly for adolescent girls.  Notwithstanding progress, a lack of access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, information and services, gender inequalities, including violence, and poverty all impact on their ability to take charge over their bodies and lives and for them there is a real danger of being left out and left behind. But in spite of these barriers, Tanzania’s youth’s conviction that progress and change is possible is unwavering. They are challenging gender roles, shattering stereotypes and demanding that they take their rightful place at community and national level decision making tables so that they can contribute towards shaping the future they want – a more just and equal future for every youth in Tanzania.

Youth-led innovation

UNFPA in Tanzania is supporting youth to be part of the transformational change they are demanding through youth-lead organizations like AfriYAN; youth advisory bodies like YAP; community platforms; and through tapping into their creativity and innovation.

@Warren Bright / UNFPATanzania. Young entrepreneurs are designing new mobile app platforms that resonate with youth’s views, experiences and unique sexual and reproductive health needs.

Since 2017, UNFPA, through the AMUA Accelerator, has been supporting young entrepreneurs across the country to design new mobile app platforms that resonate with youth’s views, experiences and unique sexual and reproductive health needs. Eight teams have been mentored and supported to date with seed funding to launch their products on to the market, such as eShangazi,  a chatbot that provides age-relevant and accurate information and education on family planning, teenage pregnancy, menstruation and sexual and reproductive health and rights.  The app also signposts users to their nearest health facility.

Jamillah is 19 and a regular visitor to the eShangazi’s Facebook page.  She says that she used to think that if a girl hadn’t received a marriage proposal by the age of 15 then she was unlucky and had brought shame on her family. She admits that she even laughed at girls who turned down marriage proposals…but not anymore, she says, thanks to her online aunt – eShangazi.  She is now aware of her rights and the consequences of both marrying and giving birth at a young age. “No one will convince me to get married until I am at least 25 or even older,” she asserts.  

Today on International Youth Day, UNFPA in Tanzania celebrates the power of youth. Those individuals, innovators and trailblazers across the country who are on the frontline, fearlessly working to bring about positive and sustainable change in their communities and ensuring that the voices of youth are heard.

We have listened and heard youth’s vision for the future and remain committed to empowering them to play a meaningful role in shaping the more equitable world that they want to inherit.