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We first met Winifrida three years ago. She had just attended training to learn about her rights and adolescent sexual and reproductive health because in her own words she didn’t like seeing girls becoming pregnant before they had even finished primary school education or being married and she wanted to do something about it. When she heard about the training – run by KIWOHEDE as part of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) funded UNFPA ‘Nilinde Nikulinde Project’ (“Protect me; I protect you”) – she said it was an opportunity to have a voice; a chance to lead positive transformation in her community.

 I used to have a lot of worries and unanswered questions about getting pregnant or being forced to marry someone or getting infected with HIV but not now.

Planning for the future

Winifrida is still a peer educator at the adolescent and youth-friendly corner at Lukungu Health Centre, Busega District, Simiyu Region – one of 13 corners to be constructed under the project. Together with her fellow peer educators she visits youth in her district to support them to make healthy and informed decisions and choices.  But Winifrida is now 22 and although her passion for her voluntary work hasn’t diminished she is looking to the future, planning to set up a tailoring business and support young girls with vocational training – training she herself received under the project.

Winifrida says she has found the last three years rewarding.  She has become a go to friend for young girls in the community who come to her for advice. She has also noticed some changes in herself:  “I used to have a lot of worries and unanswered questions about getting pregnant or being forced to marry someone or getting infected with HIV but not now. Because of my work and what I have learned I feel confident to fend for myself and make my own decisions about my body and life choices.”

Leading change

Winifrida is part of an extensive network of youth peer educators, recruited by KIWOHEDE through the KOICA-funded UNFPA project in the region, who have been leading transformation in their communities, increasing awareness about sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.  But there is more to their work. Peer educators are also building the agency of young people, especially girls, to speak out about child marriage, their right to education, and encouraging them to get actively involved in decision-making within their communities – a sentiment that is at the heart of UNFPA’s support to young people in Tanzania. 

The last few months have not been easy for peer educators in Simiyu – or young people in Tanzania and around the world – but they have shown resilience and been quick to adapt, setting up a WhatsApp group with at least one youth in each district and youth corner so that they remain connected and informed as the pandemic evolves in Tanzania.  

As the world continues to battle COVID-19 – and as we move forward in Tanzania – UNFPA and its partners will continue to put young people at the centre of its efforts recognizing that the realization of national and global development aspirations depends on how much their rights and choices are realized today…not tomorrow.

Note: The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is a staunch advocate of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and a champion of women and girls’ empowerment and gender equality. On 29 September 2020, UNFPA will launch a joint three-year programme with UN Women – Realizing Gender Equality through Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls – in Singida and Shinyanga Regions, Tanzania, supported by KOICA.