White: clear goals Orange: the fruits of success Youth: the population we serve
Background: White Orange Youth was founded in 1997 by a group of young professionals who believed that through collective action, empowered youth could improve their quality of life by contributing to the social, economic, and political development of Tanzania. Focusing primarily on combating HIV/AIDS and its related socio-economic impacts, our mission is to empower youth specifically to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by providing them with adequate information and life skills training. Through our unique education and outreach programs, we help youth to better protect themselves from this disease by offering them an enhanced understanding of sexual health, which helps to improve the quality of life for all Tanzanians.
The Need: Over the past twenty-five years, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) incidences in Sub-Saharan Africa have risen to alarming rates. The Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, East Africa, is no exception to this problem. Recent Tanzanian government studies estimate that about ten percent of the population in the Kilimanjaro region is infected with HIV, however many experts believe this to be an underestimate.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is devastating to Tanzania’s social and economic development largely because it disproportionately affects people of a highly productive age group – those between the ages of 15 and 35. A higher rate of HIV/AIDS infections among this age group is leading to increasing numbers of street children and orphans whose families have been devastated by AIDS-related deaths, increasing numbers of people who are in need of constant medical care, and decreasing numbers of people who are able to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country at large.
The factors contributing to the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Kilimanjaro region are numerous and diverse, ranging from the national economic situation to specific cultural practices. Through several years of working closely with youth, WOY has learned that the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS is only one manifestation of the larger problem faced by Tanzanians: a lack of adequate information about sexual health. There are three main reasons that the youth of Kilimanjaro region are not receiving adequate information about sexual health.
First, sexual health education is not part of the required curriculum for primary schools. A main reason that this is not included is the perception held by many people (such as educators, religious leaders, parents, government officials, etc.) that sexual health education will encourage youth to engage in sexual activity at an early age. Another reason is that teachers often do not feel comfortable talking about this subject with their students, believing it is up to the parents to discuss. Although some sexual health education has been delivered to primary school students by youth-oriented non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these efforts have fallen short due to ineffective
and infrequent programs. The lack of continuity with such educational programs keeps students from internalizing the information. In addition, the limited sexual health education provided by such organizations focuses on promoting abstinence, an approach that is advocated by many societal leaders. However, students who are unable to maintain abstinence are not provided with essential information about harm-reduction strategies, such as how to use condoms or how to recognize and negotiate less risky sexual activities.
Second, those youth who are not in school have little opportunity to access sexual health education. Many youth who finish primary school do not continue on to secondary school, and therefore lose access to any sexual health education provided by schools. Currently, there is a lack of outreach programs to meet the needs of these youth. Largely, this is because out-of-school youth are not organized and therefore it is difficult to bring them together in one place to provide them with information. Attempts to bring sexual health education to these youth have had to rely on providing monetary incentives and allowances to encourage them to attend workshops. Workshops run for out-of-school youth have traditionally been led using a lecture style of teaching that is not conducive to youth who may have experienced difficulty with formal education settings. This method of reaching these youth has repeatedly proven unsuccessful, as given the situation, they tend to be more interested in the financial incentive than the information.
Third, youth in the Kilimanjaro region lack opportunities for situations or environments in which they feel comfortable talking openly about sexual health. Open discussion about sexuality between youth and adults is discouraged by cultural norms, which makes it difficult for youth to gain information about sexual health from parents and/or educators. This leaves getting information from other youth, which is not always a safe or accurate source. A growing number of youth groups have tried to address this through peer education in the classroom, primarily using, however, the lecturer-student method, which is not conducive to open conversation, thoughtful questioning, and active participation. Alternative teaching methods, such as drama, role-playing, or out-of-the-classroom activities that may make students feel more comfortable, are not often implemented.
Our Response: The fact that youth in Tanzania lack access to accurate and comprehensive information about sexual health is a serious problem, leading not only to HIV/AIDS, but also to higher rates of other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) – which in turn contributes to HIV infection – and unplanned teen pregnancies. This can be devastating to the country’s socio-economic development, as it produces situations where youth are likely to face a life of poverty and desperation. WOY takes action to address the problem by working directly with our youth. We focus on preventing high-risk behavior at an early stage, when youth are more receptive to new information and behavioral change, and providing them with the skills and prevention measures necessary to reduce their risk of experiencing these problems. Using alternative teaching methods and strategies, WOY aims to provide comprehensive sexual health
education to both in-school and out-of-school youth, enabling them to actively protect and improve their lives.
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