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Spotlight on Tanzania

A room of their own

Primary school attendance is high among both girls and boys in Tanzania, but enrolment takes a big dive in secondary school – especially for girls. Expected to stay home and carry out domestic work, many marry and become mothers young, while the few who do attend high school face dangers along the way.

Few rural communities have local high schools, forcing students to walk for hours on isolated pathways and roads, which is extremely risky for girls. Those who choose to stay in accommodation nearer to school often live in unsafe conditions, facing abuse from their hosts or resorting to the sex trade so they can afford rent.

With your support, we’ve changed this picture for over 100 girls in Mwanza, Tanzania who are now living in newly constructed dormitories on their high school grounds under the protection of local women who serve as mentors and matrons.

For 17-year-old Kulwa, this investment has made all the difference. Before the dorm was built, her uncle rented her a room near the school, where she regularly faced the risk of sexual abuse from boys in the area, which caused her to consider dropping out. Now, she can sleep in a secure environment and concentrate on her studies, rather than worrying about her safety.

A new drive for healthy births

For expecting mothers and their babies in rural Tanzania, one of the major barriers to survival and healthy outcomes is the long distance that must be traveled to reach the nearest health facility. In the region of Rukwa, fewer than a third of women deliver in clinics or hospitals, which is one of the lowest rates in the country.

To reduce maternal and child mortality in this region, we are working with communities to improve local access to health care. In addition to investing in new facilities and training for health facility staff, we’ve also helped train drivers and procure 2 new ambulances, which are now strategically located to get local women on isolated homesteads to health care centres when it’s time to give birth.

With your generous support, these investments are going a long way to helping more than 135,000 women of childbearing age and their babies survive and, in so doing, supporting a better life for their families and communities.

Telling the story of change

In poor communities where very few citizens have completed school and literacy levels are low, traditional communication methods aren’t especially effective. So we get creative in figuring out ways to engage local people in complex issues, such as gender rights and infant and maternal health. Often that means using techniques that people everywhere and at any age and level of education can appreciate: namely, the art of story-telling.

We’ve helped local communities in Tanzania create 21 community theatre groups that are reaching out to local people to raise awareness of the importance of men getting involved in supporting the pregnancies and deliveries of their partners, as well as the child care of their children. When they do, women and children not only survive in greater numbers – they thrive.

Through theatrical vignettes, these theatre troupes are teaching both men and women about the benefits of working together, whether that involves men accompanying their wives to clinics, taking on domestic chores to reduce the burden on pregnant or breastfeeding wives, or getting hands-on in taking care of newborns and children under five.

Thanks to you, these theatre groups are providing an innovative way for everyone in the community – men, women, and youth – to gain a deeper understanding of how gender roles can negatively affect the health of women and children and how simple changes can make a world of difference to the health and welfare of families.

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