Try to imagine many lives of young people lost only because they don’t have access to the right information regarding health care. Imagine seeing a 15 year old girl dropping out of school and cutting her dreams short because of pregnancy. It is also sad to think of a large percentage of young boys and girls addicted to alcohol and drugs. There are many heartbreaking stories that could so easily have ended differently.
Organizing Health Symposium events is AfricAid’s way of minimizing these unwanted issues for our Kisa Scholars. In 2018, 736 Tanzanian girls in their mid-late teens have been equipped with knowledge about HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse and reproductive health through the Kisa Project. They will share this learning with their families and friends for an even wider impact.
Health Symposiums were conducted on February 3rd and 10th. During these events, Kisa Scholars received the opportunity to learn from professionals who joined us to openly talk about these topics. Our panel of speakers were professionals from local NGOs, as well as independent nurses. NGOs represented were Kisongo Sober House, Bomang`ombe Sober House, Dunia Moja Pamoja (Together in One World) Foundation, VOYOTA (Voice for Youth in Tanzania) and Health Integrated Multispectral Services.
Kisa Scholars had a lot of questions regarding the three health topics and the speakers took enough time to answer all of them with clarity. The Youth Development Officer from Monduli District’s message particularly resonated with the girls. Meshi told them “A total number of 47 pregnancy cases were reported from Secondary and Primary Schools in Monduli Districts. These girls are very young and dropped out of school. As a Youth Development Officer in Monduli, I am very happy to see we are joining forces to fight against these issues, especially early pregnancy, to keep our girls in school so that they can achieve their dreams and participate in the national development.” She told the girls they are all unique and that “you should use your uniqueness to impact your communities and to protect yourselves.”
Salum, a former drug addict who is currently helping other people affected by drugs caught all the participants’ attention when he told the group how drug addiction affected his life. “I always feel sad when I see young people engage in the use of drugs. I have been using drugs for more than 10 years and I did not gain anything other than feeling guilty for all the bad things I did. I used to threaten people and put their lives into danger only to get money for drugs.”
Alcohol and drug abuse speakers made everyone think deeply, but it effected one Scholar from Moringe Sokoine Secondary School in a personal way. She emotionally shared the story of her brother who is a drug addict, and her family who doesn’t know what to do to help him get out of that situation. “I am sad and happy at the same time. I get sad when I think of my brother’s condition but I am also happy because I now know where and how we can help him to become sober. Salum`s story is very emotional but it has opened my eyes. I will share the experience with my family and contact the Sober House for other procedures,” said our young Scholar.
Giving back to the community and being a part of positive change in Tanzania is a goal of many of our Kisa Scholars. Topics discussed at the Health Symposium inspired many girls to respond in a way similar to Subira from Arusha Secondary School. “I will now be part of change in my community through acting as a role model. This involves abstaining from drugs, unsafe sex and behaviors that lead many people to health challenges.” Another Scholar from Makumira Secondary felt she could use what she has learned in Kisa to make a difference. Aisha said, “After attending the Health Symposium, I will become an advocate for these health issues through provision of education. I am going to create a campaign by preparing different songs and print materials with messages about causes and effects of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and early pregnancies.”
AfricAid’s Health Symposium certainly got our girls thinking about their own vulnerabilities and ways they can help others. It is rare they have the opportunity to speak so freely about these important threats to their well-being. The Symposium challenged them, opened their minds, inspired them and hopefully will protect them from harm. In the future, we hope to hear more stories about empowered young people living the life they intend to live.