Tanzania: Youth Empowerment Will Help Address Better Challenges Facing Them

SWEATY boys and girls were curious, wondering what information was about to be divulged to them.

After an exciting game of football, the boys were reluctant to leave, as they whispered to each other, pondering whether a new game was about to be introduced to them. Standing slightly above six feet tall, Solomon Mwakipesile could not contain his curiosity.

He followed a young lady who had been with them throughout the sporting activities and asked her to explain what was going on. The young lady told him to be patient because they wanted to share some interesting information which, if properly utilised, could change their lives.

Finally, when the time was ripe, the young lady, Emmaculata Edward (23), told them about the importance of family planning and the advantages of avoiding reckless behaviour, which involved unprotected sex.

What the young people didn't know at that particular time was that the young lady was a volunteer, working with Youth Education Through Sports Tanzania (YES TZ) to educate young men and women on how to address challenges facing them daily.

"Our work is to ensure that young people in the country understand opportunities available to them and that they are in a position to make a positive impact on society and their country," she said.

Working through Sai in Ilomba Ward, Mbeya Region, Ms Edward said that her volunteering work involved educating her fellow youths on the importance of engaging in safe sex, family planning and development activities.

She said empowering young people with knowledge and skills would enable them to make informed choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health rights.

One of the young women reached by Ms Edward, Tecla Tobias Mtetema (19), from Ilomba Ward in Mbeta, said the information she received concerning her sexuality had made a positive impact on her life, saying it was a timely move which rescued her from irresponsible sexual behaviour.

A mother of two said she used to be involved in reckless behaviour, which involved unprotected sex, which resulted in her getting pregnant at the age of 15.

"Because I was involved in unprotected sex with multiple partners, I know I risked getting HIV/Aids or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because more people meant more chances that one or more of them would have HIV/Aids or an infection," she said.

Anna Myovela, the YES TZ Assistant Programme Coordinator said young people encounterd a lot of challenges which in most cases presented negative ramifications, which might force them to throw themselves into crime, drug abuse and co.

She said once the government and society addressed most of these challenges, it would assure the youth of a brighter future and present them with a better environment to live in.

"Our passion is to see that young people become agents of positive change in the country by creating a conducive environment which assures them of a chance to participate in political and developmental issues."

Catherine Luvanda, one of the teenagers who was also reached through the YES TZ volunteering work, confessed that her life was on the verge of disaster through entertaining bad company, which saw her becoming a mother while she had not reached the majority age.

She said young men took advantage of her naivety and poor judgment to lure her into sexual activities, which also put her at a risk of contracting STDs.

"To be honest I did not even know how to use protective gear and I thank God that I did not get any STDs. This has made me believe that I have received a second chance to correct my mistakes," she said.

According to the Mbeyabased organisation's Director Kenneth Simbaya, YES TZ strives for empowering young people to make sure they are recognised as significant and valuable resources, that is why they advocate meaningful engagement of the youth.

He said youth empowerment could curb the rate of poverty to a considerable extent, as one of the keys to empower the youth was with skill development, and when they were equipped with essential skills, they would utilise them to feed, assist others and even invest for future use, aiding the nation economically.

"Therefore, empowering, strengthening and including young people in a work environment will reduce unemployment, crime and drug abuse. This in turn will lead to a better society, country and ultimately a better world," he said.

Mr Simbaya further said they at YES TZ believed that when empowered, young people could positively contribute to democracy and good governance and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nationa

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