With the support of the Tanzania Women Research Foundation (TAWREF), in April 2018 we started work on a three-year £250,000 Accessing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights project to improve the health and well-being of female sex workers, vulnerable adolescent girls and young women, people with disabilities and people living with HIV in Hai District, Kilimanjaro region, northern Tanzania. TAWREF has named the project ‘Shirikisha Wote’ which means ‘Involve All’ in Swahili.
This project is designed to improve access to sexual reproductive healthcare and gender-based violence services for the most disadvantaged. It also seeks to address the core drivers of high-risk sexual behaviour by improving economic opportunities for hard-to-reach groups via Village Community Bank (VICOBA) schemes. This project, which is funded by UK aid from the UK government, works through peer educators – the agents of change – and partners with government service providers and community leaders to raise awareness of women’s constitutional rights. Read more about our Accessing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights project here
Hai District in Kilimanjaro region, where our project is situated, has seen an increase in the female sex worker population. Local socio-economic conditions which have fuelled this increase include: high school drop-out rates (especially for girls); high levels of illiteracy, poverty and associated deprivation; high unemployment and few opportunities for developing sustainable livelihoods; low levels of awareness of sexually transmitted diseases; and a significant transient population of truck drivers and cattle herders.
Women and girls are three times more likely to be HIV positive than men, and the Global AIDS Response Country Report for Tanzania (2014) estimates that 37.5% of female sex workers are HIV positive. HIV and family planning are seen as the responsibility of parents by educational authorities, yet sex is a taboo subject within many communities. What’s more, female sex workers face high levels of social discrimination and encounter barriers to accessing public information and services relating to sexual reproductive health, family planning and HIV, which are insufficient, and of poor quality.