Inspired by our partners and beneficiaries

I have just returned from a field visit to Tanzania for the first time as Chief Executive for African Initiatives. I wanted to understand first-hand what we do, with whom and how!  It has really helped me understand how the projects and partners we work with are connected, and what more we could be doing. I cannot wait to return in the coming months!

I met with all our partner teams (more on that in a minute), and most exciting of all, I visited people who are directly impacted by African Initiatives’ and our partners’ work: students; teachers; head teachers; district education officers, who we work with through our education programme; peer educators (sex workers and vulnerable adults); and lastly, but by no means least, those living with a disability who are reached through our health and well-being, and livelihoods projects.

Overall, I could see the continuum of support we provide to vulnerable girls, young women and people living with a disability in the rural north of Tanzania: from primary level children by focussing on getting them into school and improving learning outcomes; to supporting healthy behaviour in older students (helping to keep them in school by reducing gender based violence, as well as improving understanding of their rights and available services related to sexual reproductive health, family planning and HIV/AIDS); through to providing livelihood opportunities for young adults through village community banking initiatives.

There were so many trip highlights. I will tell you my most memorable!

First was learning how the MEMKWA support (the Tanzanian government’s name for their catch-up curriculum) is enabling children, previously out of school, to join the mainstream school system. In many cases, these are children from Maasai pastoralist communities who are often expected to graze livestock far from home or do household chores. Our partners’ awareness and sensitisation activities reached parents within these communities; parents were informed about how their children would benefit from being in school and learning reading, writing and arithmetic (known as the 3 K’s in Tanzania). Read more about our education projects here

A typical Maasai settlement
Maasai boy grazing live stock

In June 2018, we launched a one-year Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project with our new partner Childreach. This project improves WASH conditions in three primary schools in this region: toilets are being renovated and reliable access to clean water is going to be provided to reduce sickness rates. We also aim to incorporate learning about menstrual hygiene into the curriculum to increase adolescent girls’ self-esteem, knowledge and school attendance. Read more about this new health and well-being project here

I visited Sango Primary School near Moshi in Kilimanjaro region where I watched some young students washing their hands joyfully whilst singing about the health benefits of washing your hands. I managed to capture this moment, click on the video below to experience it for yourself!

I spent some valuable time with the Joshua Foundation team where I learnt more about their approach to strengthening the quality of teaching through a very comprehensive mentoring and coaching approach. I was told how this methodology is already appreciated by at least one district education officer who wants to adopt it alongside standardised government approaches.

I spoke with a blind member of our Village Community Bank Scheme (VICOBA), which is implemented by Tusonge Community Development Organisation in Kilimanjaro’s Nija Panda ward, and largely focusses on helping those living with a disability. Click on the video below to hear KP speak about the lives of people living with a disability. He told me how he felt the scheme demonstrates a trust in his ability, a trust that does not generally exist in the community. He is excited by this project as it works to support disabled people to live more financially independent lives.

“People living with a disability are left at home, no one believes in them and no one shows them how to do things […] I believe we have to be protected, but we should be given a chance to try and do things, and gain trust in order to achieve our goals.”

Another significant highlight was meeting with some of our partner Tanzania Women Research Foundation’s (TAWREF) peer educators who felt that the skills they were learning through our project work, which builds awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights for female sex workers and vulnerable youths, could help them achieve their dreams, including starting up an NGO.

Pictured with TAWREF
Meeting peer educators

It was wonderful to consistently hear from our partners how they really value African Initiatives. In most cases, we are the longest and most significant partner, providing access to funding and building capacity in numerous technical areas: most notably, through organisational assessments; mainstreaming disability inclusion through project activities; monitoring progress against plans, critical reflection and learning from activities undertaken; and, most recently, supporting them to connect and learn from each other. All mentioned it felt like a true partnership where we could disagree with each other and work through challenges together. This was music to my ears!

Edwin, our Overseas Programme Coordinator with CORDS
Marta, our Programmes Manager with CASEC

Last, but certainly not least, was being introduced to the truly passionate teams within our eight partner organisations. These individuals work so hard to ensure every penny of funding, and their time and effort, goes to improving the lives of those marginalised by society and/or vulnerable to violence and disease.

Stay tuned for future updates from me as I continue to settle into my role and move African Initiatives forward, in line with our five-year Strategic Plan!