Building women’s confidence and futures in Tanzania
Verediana lived in fear, constantly worrying about her future, and wondering if she too would struggle with poverty like her parents before her.
Born in a family of seven, Verediana’s parents provided for their children with a limited income through farming. Attending school was not an option for her or her siblings.
As a 23-year-old single mother with a four-year-old daughter, Verediana was dangerously close to becoming part of an already alarming picture in Tanzania’s Shinyanga region.
A 2015/2016 Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) report cited gender-based violence affecting 78% of married women aged 15 to 49 years in the area.
The region also has the highest rate of child marriage at 59%, with teenage pregnancies for girls below 18 at 34%.
“To a great extent, women and girls in the area are not decision-makers,” says Verediana. “They are expected to marry early and take care of their families.”
Doing her best to provide for her daughter, Verediana wondered if her dream of pursuing an education was simply out of reach.
Not wanting to accept this fate, she joined Cuso International’s AGAPE Knowledge Open School (AKOS) program and is now completing her secondary education.
AKOS supports women like Verediana, as well as young adults and children to advance gender equality and social inclusion in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania, focusing on four key areas:
1. Child and youth protection
2. Prevention of GBV, child marriages and pregnancies
3. Skillful parenting
4. Women and youth empowerment
“The program helps save girls who have lost their dreams due to challenges such as childhood marriage, physical abuse, childhood pregnancies, poverty and lack of family stability,” says Verediana.
She has benefitted from the instruction and from other program elements including providing food so that she can focus on her studies, upgrades to the local learning centre and incorporating video lessons which made class materials much easier to understand.
Verediana is also learning English – something she never thought she would have the chance to do and has given presentations in class in English with confidence and pride.
“In my community, parents and guardians have also been educated on the importance of educating girls and not marrying them off when they are young,” she says. “Many girls who have gone through AGAPE Knowledge Open School are now in university,” she adds. “My goal for the future is to be a pharmacist and to advocate for women and girls.”
Verediana’s time in the program has motivated her to show her daughter that when she grows up, she too can make her own decisions to pursue the life she wants.
“My life has really changed since I came here,” says Verediana. “Now I live in peace. I don’t worry.”
In fact, she’s very excited about the future, for both her and her daughter.
“I believe that women and girls can do so much,” she says. “And I believe that my dreams shall be fulfilled and that one day I will be able to educate other girls and the whole community.”