Mafia embarks in new approach to protect girls from ‘predators’

13Nov 2019
Beatrice Philemon
The Guardian
Mafia embarks in new approach to protect girls from ‘predators’

AUTHORITIES in Mafia district have embarked on new approach aimed at protecting girls from teenage pregnancies  and early marriages in the Indian Ocean island—located southern part of Dar es Salaam.

ActionAid Tanzania - Mafia, project coordinator, Samwel Mesiak speaks to women   on how to address teenage pregnancies and early marriages in the district. Photo: Correspondent Beatrice Philemon

Mafia District Acting Community Development Officer, Yohana Lwenda said that between 2015 and 2019, about 21 students were impregnated.

“This figure seems to be small, but in reality there are early pregnancy among the schoolgirls are rampant, there are many cases which are unreported. So, it is a serious challenge that we’re working on.”

“That’s why we’re bringing in all players as government alone cannot address this challenge,” Lwenda said.

Number of stakeholders have been involved such as district councilors, religious leaders, police, parents, teachers, students, magistrates, civil society organizations (CSOs) such as ActionAid Tanzania and government institutions such as Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).

The idea is meant to provide a room for girls to get access to education and other social services as it is to their boys’ counterparts.

Speaking to Fr. Francis Massawe of Roman Catholic Church in Mafia District also said early pregnancy and marriages as a challenge, noting: “As religious leaders we’re demanding birth or baptism certificate before officiating marriages to protect girls from such marriages.”

“Just look I have been in Mafia for three years now, I have never seen early marriage in our church because as the catholic demands birth or baptism certificates before officiating marriage,” he said.

He expressed thanks to ActionAid Tanzania, Mafia district council and other stakeholders to embark on this initiative to help girls enjoy their rights to education, meet their dreams, prevent early marriage in school that is one of the main barriers to girls’ education in Mafia as well as increase access to quality primary and secondary education.

He said apart from ActionAid Tanzania, religion leaders have  already met with Mafia district Commissioner to discuss how they can fight early marriage and teenage pregnancies and the meeting has brought positive results that’s why we have decided to demand birth certificate before we officiating marriage.

For his part Senior Resident Magistrate In charge, Mafia District Court, Moses  Maroha also said  that at the  moment rape remain  the leading gender -based violence  for children and youth in  Mafia.

According to him, in 2018, twelve cases were reported to the district court. Other cases include sexual harassment, unnatural offences and rape.

He also said that between January and October, this year nine cases were reported to court and among those seven were rape cases and two are sexual harassment cases. The magistrate said  that some cases were dismissed for lack of sufficient evidences, while one unnatural offence case  had been sentenced to 2 years in prison or to pay a compensation of 1m/-.

He also said that majority of mafia residents don’t report cases to the responsible authorities, the situation that fuels GBV in the Indian Ocean island.

“This is what made the court to come up with new special program to educate students on how to report such GBV cases,” he said, adding: “This helps students to be confident on the matter.”

ActionAid Tanzania - Mafia, Project Coordinator, Samwel Mesiak said the campaign is part of the ‘Stop Violence Against Girls in School (SVAGs)’ project, which was introduced in Mafia three years ago. He said the idea of the project was to change mindset  for students and prevent traditions and cultural barriers that contribute violence against girls in schools, increase school enrolment for girl’s,  community behavioral change, help them pass their exams and reduce dropout out of school for girls and being  implemented by ActionAid and Sauti ya Wanawake Mafia .

According to Mesiak, the project has improved the learning environment  in terms of classrooms construction, improved sanitation facilities and enhance the review and amendment of school by-laws) which has facilitated an increase in the number of school girls’ enrolment, attendance and performance from 30 percent to 70 percent since the project inception and has embarked them to access secondary education.

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