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Amira, Fatma and Sabra* are all in Form 3 at Bumbwini Secondary School, North B District, Zanzibar. They love school; they say there is a good relationship between students and teachers and most importantly they are learning, but for all three things are very different on their return home. They say they no longer have time to study; they are busy cooking, washing dishes and clothes, cleaning, and collecting water: “You are asked to do every kind of work as if you are the one who has been married,” says Sabra.

Like many girls in Zanzibar – and around the world – Amira, Fatma and Sabra all have large dreams; Fatma wants to be a teacher, Amira and Sabra both want to be doctors. They see a hopeful future, one where their voices are heard and their rights are respected, but at the same time they are anxious that their life could take a very different path. 

Sabra is concerned that if money becomes scarce her family won’t be able to afford to send her to medical school, and there is always the pressure to be married. Amira worries about violence and becoming pregnant. She tells the story of one of her neighbours where a stranger broke into the house and tried to rape her friend.  “Instead of her parents supporting her to take the issue further, they blamed my friend for inviting the perpetrator into the house,” she recounts.

Today on International Day of the Girl Child we raise our voice with girls in Zanzibar and around the world to say: ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future!’

The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has made clear commitments and progress to tackle gender inequalities, as articulated in national, regional and global development agendas/strategies – including the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children (2017–2022) – yet girls in Zanzibar still  face discrimination and all too often their voices are silenced in school, in communities and in the public sphere.

Today as UNFPA Tanzania commemorates International Day of the Girl Child with the government, our partners C-Sema and adolescent girls in Zanzibar, we listen to and hear their voices as they speak of their dreams and aspirations, and the future they want – a brighter, more equal future where their rights and choices are upheld.  And we, at UNFPA, commit to galvinizing efforts and pushing forward to deliver together and better on our commitments of an equitable world. We raise our voice with girls in Zanzibar and around the globe to say: ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future!’

* Names have been changed.

1. C-Sema runs the National Child Helpline – in collaboration with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and with support from UNFPA; a toll-free telephone service (116) that links children in need of care and protection with available services in the Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.