A visit to Tanzania
Because I am a Girl is Plan’s initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty.
One way to achieve that goal is to ensure that adolescent girls have access to proper health care and information so that they can identify risks and prevent disease in order to stay healthy, finish school and create a better life for themselves and their families.
Recently, two Canadian teens had the chance to travel to Tanzania and visit a project their family has supported for the past few years. Here, they witnessed the true impact of accessible health care and services, including how these resources can benefit adolescent girls.
During their trip, Hannah, 17 and Rachel, 14, got to see how the project is changing lives. Even more importantly, they got to meet other girls their age and find out what it really means to be a girl growing up in a developing community, where gender discrimination is often a daily struggle.
Canadian sisters Rachel and Hannah
In our project area, young people lacked access to comprehensive health services, and often felt uncomfortable seeking health advice even when services were available.
Based on the input of more than 80 youth, local health administrators developed action plans for four health centres that are now offering youth-friendly services.
This includes dedicated clinic times that provide a safe and welcoming place for girls to gain knowledge, get resources and support one another in taking charge of their bodies and health. It also includes visits to schools and households by specially trained community health care workers, as well as outreach initiatives, like educational theatre skits, so people know these services are available and feel comfortable seeking them out.
Hannah and Rachel’s visit
Hannah and Rachel got to learn first-hand what these services mean to local girls.
“I had the opportunity to get to know some of the teenage girls in the area,” says Hannah. “In hearing their stories, interests, and dreams, I realized how similar they were to me and Rachel. They want to marry later, have kids later, and work hard in school. They love volleyball, swimming, and dancing.”
Hannah and Rachel talk with other youth at the clinic.
But, notes Hannah, a number of the girls she met had been forced by circumstances to give up on their passions and dreams to help support their families, and many already had children of their own.
“This was difficult for me because I realized that the only thing that separated my life from theirs was circumstance.”
Rachel agrees and says she, too, was struck most by the similarities she shared with the girls she met.
“I saw myself and my friends in the way that they laughed and teased one another,” she says.
While many of the girls that Rachel and Hannah met were already out of school, those who continued on credited the work being done by Plan’s Because I am a Girl project.
“They dreamed of being doctors and teachers and saw this as possible because of the work being done in their community to promote the rights of girls,” says Rachel.
Both Rachel and Hannah say they came away from the experience more committed than ever to their sponsorship and support.
“Girls’ rights are the responsibility of every girl,” says Hannah. “Regardless of where we call home, girls face similar experiences, and we should support one another. We should give to one another what we can, the same way we would give to our sisters or our mothers.”
This project receives financial support from the Government of Canada through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).
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