Thubutu Africa Initiatives
Gender inequality not only lowers a girl’s ability to make decisions related to her education and health but also when and who to marry. In Tanzania, married women have less control over their lives than married men do. Two out of five married women do not participate in decision-making regarding their own health care. Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, where almost 3 out of 10 girls marry before their 18th birthday. On average girls get married off five years before their boys.
Shinyanga region in Tanzania has one the highest rates of child marriage at almost 59%. A Girls Not Brides survey in 2017 stated that some of the key factors that contribute to child marriage in this region are; family honour, poverty, education level and traditional harmful practices. The consequences of which include increased maternal and infant mortality risks; contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS; and becoming victims of gender-based violence
Thubutu Africa Initiatives (TAI) has been working in the region of Shinyanga to create a safe and healthy environment for children through education. The Swahili word ‘Thubutu’ means ‘to dare’ and the organisation’s motto is ‘Dare to be your own change!’ They believe that to be able to be your own change, you need to get opportunities; opportunities to gain information, to learn, to process, to shape your thoughts and ideas. This change can be brought about through education, which is the focus of TAI. Education increases knowledge and informed people have more power over their own lives. In order to do that they work with children, the family, and the community. Since 2010 TAI has been implementing the Aflatoun curriculum and has been training teachers in this region.
TAI specifically works with the community and families to alter the mindset around child marriage. This was also a strong reason for the adoption of Aflateen+ curriculum, which is well fitting in the context of helping girls on life skills and financial education through a gender lens. One of the themes of the Aflateen+ curriculum that TAI is implementing is the ‘My Body, My Choices’ as it fits well with girls who are at risk of getting married at early stage or unwanted pregnancy and need to get a comprehensive understanding of the context around them. This is important as it also falls under TAI’s philosophy of “Girls deserve to grow up in a safe and healthy environment both socially and economically; an environment that enables them to reach their full potential.”
What they have seen is that girls get more value of the Aflateen+. The value comes from an angle of knowledge acquisition to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and being equipped with financial knowledge and skills. Girls are the population group, which is highly at risk. They are easily swayed by peer pressure, which hinders them to reach their potential. When we are empowering them with Aflateen + knowledge they feel loved and rescued from dangers.
TAI has witnessed that due to the Aflateen+ programme the confidence level has increased within a short time after facilitating sessions with girls in this school. As one of the participants said, “I never thought of recording my expenses and reasoning whether what I want to spend is a ‘want’ or a ‘need.’ Aflatoun has helped me to gain this skill which I am proud of.” Another student also shared her experience with the programme saying, “I like the Aflateen+ lessons because it gives me confidence to plan life ahead of me.”