Sauti Moja Tanzania is working to increase education among young Maasai girls. The challenge is that girls in Tanzania are at high risk of pregnancy due to a combination of cultural factors and lack of education about reproduction and pregnancy prevention. Many schools girls face early pregnancies that result in their expulsion from school. We help them manage their situations and obtain ongoing educational opportunities for them!
As a minority in the dominant Tanzanian culture, the Maasai are generally marginalized and as a result, have access to fewer services and weaker public institutions, such as health and education. Within rural Maasai communities, Maasai girls are less likely to go to school, less likely to stay in school, and less likely to be successful in school, as compared to their male counterparts. This is due to a host of factors related to cultural values, prejudice in schools, and the poor capacity of school institutions.
- One of the main factors inhibiting girls from staying in school is pregnancy. This is a complicated issue, but due to sexual values among the Maasai, the power dynamics in most girls’ relationships, conditions of poverty, and a terrible lack of sexual and reproductive health education, girls are pressured or forced, in some cases, to begin sexual relationships at young ages. This leads to a high rate of pregnancy among school girls and, subsequently, a low school retention rate for teenage girls.
- Furthermore, in Tanzania girls who get pregnant while in public (government) school are immediately expelled and prohibited from ever returning. Due to this law, in most cases of pregnancy, Maasai girls return home, and often, they proceed into early marriages, giving up their aspirations to an education and a healthier future for themselves and their future family. The result is that many Maasai girls’ right to an education is being compromised and right to live free from discrimination is not being protected!
- The Tumaini kwa Wasichana Centre (Hope for Girls Centre): School girls who face early pregnancy and school expulsion are welcomed at the Centre, where they are provided a safe place to stay for three weeks, during which time a Support Worker provides counseling, meets with their families, facilitates access to health care, and provides sexual and reproductive health education. It is a period for recovering from the shock of pregnancy and expulsion from school, and rejuvenating hope!
- Support healthy pregnancies and safe delivery: Support staff ensure that each girl in the program has access to good medical service to optimize their health and that of their babies. This often includes transporting the girl to a hospital for delivery of the baby, and sometimes includes payment for a C-section.
- Family mediation: Support staff visit girls’ families and maintain a good relationship in order to encourage them that ongoing school opportunities are available, and work with the family to identify opportunities for continued education. The prime goal is to avoid early marriage!
- Scholarship support for private school: Sauti Moja is committed to networking with other organizations to solicit financial support, which will allow girls to attend a private school, following pregnancy. Obviously, cost of private school is high compared to government schools, so the challenge of raising funds from impoverished families is significant! Therefore, Sauti Moja is increasingly relying on sponsorship to help girls return to school.
- Capacity-building with schools: In collaboration with a Dutch organization, SNV, Sauti Moja assisted in facilitating workshops with school committees, administrators and managers in order to better address issues relating to girls’ education. Sauti Moja staff visit schools to advocate for referral of expelled girls to our program.
- Sexual and Reproductive Health Education: Sauti Moja conducts educational initiatives in local schools in order to empower girls and help them make informed choices. In addition, all of the young mothers who have returned to secondary school attend workshops during school break. Here, they learn about reproductive health and are trained in life skills in order to help them prevent further unwanted pregnancy and protect themselves against disease.
- Girls facing early pregnancies and school expulsion are getting support. More than 60 girls have reported to the Tumaini kwa Wasichana Centre and received support, as they transition through the difficult circumstances they face.
- Girls are avoiding early marriages. With few exceptions, our support workers have been successful in family mediation activities and motivating families to help girls return to school following pregnancy.
- Girls are returning to school with renewed hope! As of October 2012, 36 of the girls that came to Tumaini kwa Wasichana Centre have successfully returned to school, with financial support from Sauti Moja and several other Tanzanian and international organizations.
- Girls are making informed choices to prevent pregnancies. Girls are learning about sexual and reproductive health matters, which is empowering and leads to greater self-confidence and healthier choices.
- Schools are addressing issues affecting girls education. Workshops have been conducted with School Management Committees, which are now more aware and proactive concerning the challenges girls face.
- The early pregnancy issue and the law prohibiting girls from returning to school has become a significant political topic. We have raised the issue with a host of government authorities, Members of Parliament, and Parliamentary Committees who are aware of and debate the issue, and beginning to prioritize it. However, the current government adamantly rejects allowing girls to return to school.
Although we are seeing great moves forward, we still need your support to continue achieving such goals. If you would like to sponsor a Child Mother and help provide her an opportunity to continue her education and become self-sufficient, please click here and head to our Donations page!