Tanzania is located in East Africa and is one of the continent’s poorest countries. Giving girls access to their rights is a step in the fight against poverty. One third of all girls in Tanzania have been forced to marry before their eighteenth birthday.
Tanzania became independent in the early 1960s and is a union between the Zanzibar archipelago and the mainland. Since the mid-2010s, the former political calm has been replaced by a tougher government and an even more vulnerable situation for activists, women and LGBTQ people.
Conflicts in neighboring Burundi have also affected Tanzania as more than 100,000 Burundians were forced to flee across the border. After a few years, Tanzania has started working for the refugees to return home.
One in four lives in poverty
Tourism is important to Tanzania and many people travel there to enjoy nature and wildlife. Mines are also a major source of income. But most work in agriculture and poverty is widespread.
About a quarter of Tanzania’s population lives in poverty and over a third of children under the age of five are malnourished. An important factor in fighting poverty is giving girls and women access to their rights.
More than a third of girls in Tanzania have been forced to marry before the age of 18. One explanation for the fact that so many girls have been married off is that Burundians who have lived on the run for several years cannot afford to support their children. In addition, it is common for girls to become mothers, just over a tenth of all pregnancies are children who give birth to children. Maternal mortality is also about a hundred times higher than in Sweden.
Illegal child marriage
In 2019, it was decided in court that both girls and boys must have reached the age of 18 to get married. The change in the law was proposed as early as 2016, but it took three years before it became a reality. It is now illegal to marry off children in Tanzania, regardless of gender.
This is what Plan International in Tanzania does
Plan International has been working in Tanzania since 1991. Since then, we have supported vulnerable children and their families and ensured that they have access to health care, education, clean water, protection and the opportunity to live a good life.
Some of our focus areas are security, sexual and reproductive health and rights, equal education, water and sanitation, job opportunities for young people and emergency response to disasters.
Tanzania has received hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plan International and the UN refugee agency UNHCR are collaborating to better combine long-term work and emergency response when crises last for a long time. Plan International’s focus in the camps is education and child protection. We also focus on income-generating work, for example, we try to get vocational training adapted to the requirements set by the industries to make it easier for young people to enter the labor market.
“Afterwards my life changed”
Beatrice tells herself about her experiences of being mutilated, about how important it is to learn about girls’ rights and how good it feels to be able to protect other girls.
“Blood was all I had seen of genital mutilation before I experienced it myself. Once a girl has been genitally mutilated, she has no choice but to go home. She walks through the village and people know what she has been through because they can see the blood. Her clothes are stained. It’s like a show so everyone knows, because if you have not been circumcised, you can not get married.
When I was 13, it was my turn. I was so scared that I ran to the church and hid there for two days. I cried, but my brother came and forced me back home. My family decided to make sure I was genitally mutilated. Some girls do not suffer as much, but I was so scared.
Afterwards, my life changed. I was told that I was an adult now and that I needed a man. I was 13 years old. Several men came to our house to propose, but I did not want to get married so I said no. I want to continue going to school. But in high school I got pregnant and my family forced me to marry my boyfriend. Shortly after the wedding, he ran away. I was left to raise our daughter myself. I was so sad, I just wanted to continue living my life.
When I heard about Plan International’s education on child marriage, female genital mutilation and children’s rights, I knew right away that I wanted to participate. Now I can inform others myself and highlight the dangers of genital mutilation and child marriage. I like to tell about what I learned because I do not want other girls to have to leave school because they have been mutilated, pregnant or divorced. I want them to avoid an unhappy life.
I have also told my family what I have learned. My brother used to be very violent and never listened to me. Now I have realized that he felt compelled to force me to have genital mutilation so that I could get married. But since I started talking about these issues, he has changed. At one point, he wanted to force his daughter to have genital mutilation, just as he did with me, but I managed to get him to change. I’m so happy I managed to protect my niece. ”
Security and protection
Young activists for a better everyday life
Many young people here in the camp are facing great difficulties because they have nothing to do. There is a lack of educational opportunities and a lack of freedom to leave the camp. Education is the key to success. I want to be a surgeon myself.
Janvier, 18 years old and youth activist in the refugee camp Mtendeli
The challenges are many for children and young people in the Mtendeli refugee camp. Of the camp’s young people between the ages of 15 and 25, only two percent go to school. Janvier is one of many young people who visit the youth center that Plan International has started in the camp. Young activists gather to work to influence their everyday lives in a better direction. They work for more opportunities for the young people in the camp, so that everyone gets an education and fights for child protection.
Own income gives greater independence
I have never had the opportunity to complete anything other than elementary school. I regret that I did not go any further, I would like to be a nurse or teacher. If my daughters do not want to go to school, I will find other things for them to do so that they do not get married. I want my children to have a good life.
When Joyce was 15, she married a man twice her age. Today, she participates in a vocational program that provides education, so that she can earn her own income and thus become more financially independent and create a better future.
Facts about Tanzania
Population: 57.3 million
Life expectancy: 66 years
Infant mortality rate: 21.1 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 79.9%
Proportion of women in parliament: 36%