Dar es Salaam Street

The future lies in the hands of the youth

The future lies in the hands of the youth

Juma David tells us about the work of the Youth Development Organization in Tanzania. This Non-Profit Organization is working with school children in several regions of the country. Another topic of the interview is the Covid-19 situation in the country.

19.08.2020

Tanzania

Capital: Dodoma
Languages: around 125 spoken languages, Official language: Swahili, English (pro forma)
Population: approx. 60 million

Did you know?

Life in Europe and the USA, our ‘western world’, has changed significantly since spring 2020 due to Covid-19. Healthwise, politically and financially, the pandemic is not only bringing these regions into a threatening situation, but also the African continent. What it looks like on the scene can be shown by the contact with people from the civilian population. For this reason, we carried out the following interview with Juma David. He is chairperson of the Youth Development Organization (YDO), a small Non-Government Organization, which is working with school children mainly in Tanzania’s largest city Dar es Salaam.  With him we discussed his work and the impact of Covid-19 on the country. The interview was conducted on 06 July 2020.
 

Interview with Juma David

Can you tell us something about the work and goals of the Youth Development Organization?

Me and my fellow colleagues designed this platform with the intention of solving different challenges that are faced by communities in Tanzania. We are guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. So, we are trying to collect ideas to implement them and to develop corresponding projects. For example, providing entrepreneurship education to youth and to inspire them on how they can be in the frontline on fighting against poverty. But also, we are doing charity activities to help children and people who need support from the community. A couple of weeks ago we had a project concerning children with albinism. We did interviews with children from Morogoro and Dar es Salaam as well as in Mtwara to understand their challenges and to find ways to support them. It came to our attention that these children have problems to cover their school expenses, but also to buy sun screen and sun glasses. So, currently we are doing fund raising for them.

Because many of them are coming from poor families and because of their economic situation they decided to move away from their villages and to live in a special shelter. They can go to classes there and learn for their future. Also, they are doing different activities like cultivation of beans and vegetables.
Then we were asking ourselves: How can these children sustain themselves in the future? It was suggested that they would like to run a project of poultry raising, why we collected money for them. We thought that if they can do poultry raising at their school then they can do business with eggs, chicken and fertilizer. The money they collect with that project will help them to cover their school and living costs and other expenses like transport when they want to move to their home village.

Team YDO
Team of the Youth Development Organization (YDO); Source: Juma David.

The international community decided to adopt the 2030 Agenda in September 2015. All member states of the United Nations signed it. This means that this applies to all countries in the world, whether global north or global south, regardless of whether it is a so-called developing country, emerging country or industrialized country. The core of the agenda is a catalog with 17 goals for sustainable development (SDGs), which was developed with a large participation of the global civil society. It considers the three cornerstones of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. The five Ps set the direction as core messages: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership.1

Worldwide SDGs

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Source: United Nations Development Programme (2020).2

How are these children affected by the pandemic?
After the outbreak of this pandemic our government decided to close all schools for almost three months. So, the children had to go back to their homes. As mentioned before, the problem is that many of these children are coming from poor families. Their parents sometimes miss even 1000 shillings (~ 0,40€) for transport to transfer them from one place to another. When they are at school the government provides food for them. But when they are at home their parents struggle to ensure a daily meal for the children.

Albinism in Tanzania

Albinism in Tanzania

Approximately more than 16.000 people in Tanzania live with albinism – a genetical mutation causing a shortage of melanin that results in a lack of pigment in hair, skin and eyes. In Tanzania, people with albinism are often victims of discrimination and even violent attacks due to religious or superstitious beliefs. There are several NGOs in Tanzania trying to improve the well-being of people with albinism.3

As part of the KIKAPU project you are teaching children about nutrition and health. Did you as an organization find a way to link that with the Covid-19 pandemic?

We have already done two seasons of KIKAPU project. We did the first KIKAPU project before the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and we did the second KIKAPU project during Covid-19. We focused on meeting with parents first, because when you want to change the future of the children you should consult their parents first.

The overall content of this project is to teach children about the importance of nutritious food. Our main reflection is to fight against hunger and all forms of malnutrition diseases. That is guided by sustainable development goal number two and its target of zero hunger. We decided to do the KIKAPU project while Covid-19 because we were thinking that this pandemic stronger affects children with a malnutrition disease. So, when we teach the children and their parents to have a good selection of nutritious food like fruits in their daily meal they can stay healthy.

KIKAPU Corona
KIKAPU project in the context of Covid-19; Source: Juma David.

Even though the political measures in Tanzania were not as strict compared to other countries – can you explain a bit about what has changed for you and your work since the beginning of the pandemic?

The pandemic mainly affects one of our projects called ‘womenvolution’. This project is reflecting on fighting against gender inequalities in our communities and to empower women. In our country, especially in the rural areas, women are highly excluded in the process of decision making. Many girls are forced to get married when they are too young. Our main target is to start within schools. The idea is to empower young people – especially girls. So, we have decided to introduce the idea of gender clubs in different parts of Tanzania. We have already designed plans and activities that will be introduced.

Then the pandemic broke out and all schools were closed. The schools already reopened now, but there are still restrictions for people gathering together. I think we have to wait until everything will be back to normal. Then we can come up with this idea again and I am pretty sure that we will get support from schools, authorities and other institutions in order to rebuild our project.
Dar es Salaam Skyline
View at the skyline of Dar es Salaam from the ferry to Zanzibar.

If you reflect about the Tanzanian society, who do you think suffered most by the pandemic?

There were a lot of impacts during this pandemic but I can say that first of all we didn’t have a lockdown here in Tanzania. Therefore, businessmen were still able to do their work. People who were mostly affected by the pandemic were people who are working in the education sector, especially teachers, as schools were closed.

From your point of view – do you think that the measures, the Tanzanian government took, were adequate to retain the virus and keep people safe?

What I observed here in our country is that our government did the very best to educate people on how they can protect themselves from this pandemic. Even children of five years know about its impact and how to behave properly. Another measure that the government took is to control people in every bus station to make sure that they wear a mask. And you can observe in every shop that there are special buckets for people to wash their hands. There are water tanks in big shops, universities, bus stops, anywhere. I think that is very nice and helpful.

Another thing is that our president tried to tell us that we have to trust our traditional medication. There are some people who are using moisture from boiled leaves to protect themselves. They believe that this will help. They try to tell us that we are Africans so we have to trust first our traditional medication. Around the city there are special shops for those moistures. As I saw many people using them, I was very worried that we will experience a disaster in our country. But thanks to god, I think we are already back in our normal situation. Students can go back to school. Maybe we have Covid-19 in our community and we have to live with it. But first of all, education is very important. The ministry of health did a lot of work to teach the people about the pandemic. When you go around Dar es Salaam you can hear public announcements from cars trying to emphasize to wear masks, use sanitizer, not touching your face. I think that creates awareness to the people.

For the Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli, Covid-19 was and is no reason for lockdowns. On the contrary: He urged people to come together to pray and to continue visiting churches and mosques. Covid Organics, a drug against Covid-19 manufactured by the Malagasy government, has also been ordered by Magufuli. A medicine, whose effectiveness has not been proven by neither Malagasy nor international scientists. The WHO warned against it.4

Now the elections are close, which will take place in October. While Magufuli is fully preparing himself and his government for the election campaign, CHADEMA, the country’s strongest opposition party, has not been idle. Tundu Lissu, until three years ago party leader and strong critic of Magufulis politics, is today his greatest challenger. Despite the fact that he was a victim of an assassination attempt three years ago, after which he left the country for Kenya and Belgium. Nevertheless, as a challenger, he is only expected to have a very slim chance of winning the election in October. „Critics accuse Magufuli, however, of systematically reducing the space for the opposition and civil society in the course of his tenure,“ said David Ehl from Deutsche Welle. Due to this interference in civil society voices, Magufuli’s election victory is expected.5

Latest violation of the country’s freedom of the press: domestic media must apply for new permits. Access for international broadcasters is thus made more difficult.6

It can be said that the freedom of the press is suffering severely from the corona pandemic, the current election campaign and the upcoming election. The freedom of the press, in turn, affects the opposition and thus a fair election campaign. In addition, critical voices against the country’s corona policy can be silenced. Transparent reporting on the number of cases and the general state of health in Tanzania is therefore not to be expected from critical domestic or foreign media. 

President Magufuli announced on June 8th that the country is free from Covid-19. What is your opinion on that?

Magufuli and the Ministry of Health tried to do some research on the equipment that is used to test Covid-19. They found that there were some errors in this equipment. They took samples from eggs, a goat and pawpaw and tested it. Unfortunately, they have tested the sample from pawpaw positive on Covid-19. Many people therefor are saying that Covid-19 is just a conspiracy. But what I believe is that Covid-19 is here in our country. People have to protect themselves. Education that our government provided helped a lot. I don’t have anything that can proof to me that we are free from the disease or not. But what I see now is that people are still taking precautions. They wear masks, they use sanitizers. I think that is the best way for us to protect ourselves.

Did personal relations between people change during the pandemic and in which way?

First of all, Covid-19 tried to teach us that it is possible to survive by yourself without depending on other people. In Tanzania, if someone is celebrating a wedding or a birthday, he or she always likes to invite many other people. But Covid-19 taught us that you don’t have to wait for the presence of others to do something. There are people who get married during Covid-19 even though the government announced that they restrict all wedding ceremonies, graduations, birthdays and even pubs. It is also an issue to visit people inside the house. People most of the time like to reach out. But Covid-19 tried to teach us that you can live without visiting someone. That you can stay at home, you can stay safe but you can also do your thing without depending on other people.

Dar es Salaam Street
Everyday situation on a busy street in Dar es Salaam.

What are your hopes and visions for the future of your country?

First of all, I believe in the youth. We have a generation that has a vision of creating a better future community. We have a huge participation and we have young people here who are creative in different sectors. I think we will have a better community, but it will depend on their passion. And whether they will change their perceptions when they themselves will become policy makers and leaders. I believe that the future for African countries will be better. I believe that we will have a better society and we will achieve it through empowering the young generation. And that’s why many platforms, including us, are investing strongly in young people – the young generation, because they are the future of this nation. 

Sources

  1. Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (2020), retrieved from http://www.bmz.de/de/themen/2030_agenda/. Last accessed on 15.08.2020.
  2. United Nations Development Programme (2020), retrieved from https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html. Last accessed on 15.08.2020.
  3. de Groot, T., Meurs, P., & Jacquet, W. (2019): The effect of contact interventions on the stigma of people with albinism in Tanzania. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness113 (5), 464-469.
  4. Deutsche Welle (15.07.2020), retrieved from https://www.dw.com/de/kommentar-corona-politik-mit-falschen-heilmitteln/a-54173382. Last accessed on 15.08.2020.
  5. Deutsche Welle (30.07.2020), retrieved from https://www.dw.com/de/tansania-ein-herausforderer-aus-dem-nichts/a-54381268. Last accessed on 15.08.2020.
  6. Deutsche Welle (11.08.2020), retrieved from https://www.dw.com/de/tansania-erschwert-zugang-f%C3%BCr-auslandssender/a-54529261. Last accessed on 15.08.2020.

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