As in most other parts of the world, it is the young who are made most vulnerable by poverty, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in Tanzania. As a result of this, youth are not perceived as part of a solution, but rather part of the problem.
There are few examples of young people taking a proactive role in addressing the challenges they face.
SPW Tanzania's approach is different. Its goal is to ensure that young people make responsible choices concerning their sexual reproductive health and have a lead role in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and their communities.
The organisation believes that young people are simultaneously the most affected by poverty and the most essential to achieving change. All its work is led by young people through a youth-led volunteer model which enables it to deliver full-time holistic sexual reproductive health programmes in the most remote rural communities in Tanzania.
The organisation is now widely recognised as an authority in its field in Tanzania, and an expert in the use of young peer educators to convey health education messages.
The programmes reach as many as 75,000 young people each year through volunteer peer educators who have been placed in rural schools. Working in these remote communities for up to seven months at a time, the young volunteers provide sexual and reproductive health education and life skills training. Many go on to university and gainful employment as a result of their experience.
SPW Tanzania's programmes are developed, assessed and continually refined based on broad consultation with tens of thousands of rural youth, key adults within their communities, partner NGOs and government ministry partners.
Following the Impact Award, SPW Tanzania was able to implement a greater number of programmes concerning sexual health and reached even more beneficiaries – 97,000 young people in Mbeya and Iringa.
Activities have been tailored to reflect the lack of participation from girls and women. These include the purchase of netball and volleyball sports equipment, conducting seminars in marketplaces on market days and conducting gender seminars. The Award has allowed more professional and young volunteer peer educators to be trained, making the programmes more sustainable.
Photos: Andy Aitchison