Devota, 26, is an Accountability Advocate, holding her government to account on gender inequality issues in Tanzania. She was trained alongside 38 other young people across India and Tanzania.
Gemma Munday, stories lead at Restless Development, interviewed Devota about her advocacy.
What are some of the biggest issues that young people face in Tanzania?
There are many gender inequality issues such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, child marriage and a lack of access to youth friendly sexual health services and education.
For example one in three girls are married as children in Tanzania. Where I live in Iringa, there was a girl in the village who was forced to be married at 14. Since I have had my training as an advocate, I was able to report it to the police station because her parents didn’t know that it was illegal. Then I provided them with education and supported them to end the marriage. But the girl has never been to school. She doesn’t know how to read or write. These are challenges that also must be addressed.
How did you find out about the opportunity to become an Accountability Advocate?
Recently I finished my education and dreamed of supporting women and girls in my country. I saw an advert online calling for volunteers for the Tutimize Ahadi (Promise Keepers) project.
I signed up, was recruited and trained by Restless Development alongside 12 other young people. We learnt about gender equality, family planning, accountability, volunteerism and youth priorities. I learnt how to survey people in the villages on which gender and family planning issues happen here. I visit people in their homes and use my tablet to record their survey answers.
“In every village in my district I have trained other young people called changemakers.”
Sometimes we stand under a tree and organise how we will educate other people in the villages. Their role is to speak to people in their villages and report issues of gender based violence back to me. They use their phones to call me and send updates via text. Often we stand under the tree and talk about the issues we have found.
What issues have you been working on recently?
Every month I use my tablet to collect information and then I write a report. It was a new thing to me, but I enjoyed it when we have analyzed the data.
“One thing we found is that there are cases concerning early marriage, forced marriage or rape, but people can fail to report it because it’s not accepted within their society.”
It’s also very far and expensive for people to travel to the nearest police station where these crimes can be reported.
We also found that there are no youth friendly services concerning sexual health. Many people still believe that if you are unmarried you are not allowed to use contraceptive methods. We are advocating for health centers to have a room for young people and staff trained in youth issues.
What have you achieved so far by collecting this information?
Together we held a meeting with local leaders and the government. During this meeting we discussed what I had found from my surveys. We invited the district Councillor because he is the one who can make sure action is taken in the communities.
We agreed that police from the gender department need to train people in the villages on how to report and train the local police to handle these cases. They promised that they would work on youth friendly sexual health services.
What motivates you to keep volunteering?
To me the most important part of the project is working with other young people from local villages. They know their communities and the issues happening there. I am the bridge between these young people, organisations and leaders.
“Even if I move back to where I am from, I will have left my mark through the change makers. They will carry the skills and knowledge even further.”
What are your hopes for the future?
In our society the men are given priority so I am fighting to make sure society understands the equality of men and women. I am determined to support women and girls to achieve the future they dream of. I hope one day to run an empowerment initiative for women and girls.