Between 3-4 November 2022, the Tanzania Alumni Association of Commonwealth Scholars (TAACS) and British Council collaborated with the Pink Project Initiative to deliver the event, Project Stand Up, to raise awareness of sexual violence in Tanzania amongst primary school children.
The Pink Project Initiative is an organisation in Tanzania which seeks to improve the lives of women and girls, and empower vulnerable women through education. The organisation works with schools, communities, and other organisations to raise awareness on a variety of issues pertaining to women.
Raising awareness of sexual violence
In Tanzania, it is estimated that 17% of women between the ages of 15-49 have experienced sexual violence and almost 3 out of 10 females reported at least one experience of sexual violence before the age of 18. Exposure to violence during childhood leaves a physical, emotional, and psychological impact on the child that can impact a person for the rest of their life. Preventative education from an early age is therefore critical to reduce rates of violence amongst children in school.
Working Project Stand Up, alumni used a holistic approach to raise awareness of sexual violence at a primacy school in Dar es Salaam. The project involved a range of stakeholders, including over 200 students, schoolteachers, and the local government authority (LGA) leader.
Taking place over two days, the event aimed to strengthen the knowledge of teachers and LGA leaders on the prevention and control of sexual violence in school settings. Attendees were invited to engage on the topic through group presentations and topical and breakout discussions. The second day focused on challenging social norms and breaking the violence against taboos through arts-based engagement.
An introduction to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Education (SRHRE)
The event opened with a welcome address from Commonwealth Alumnus Margaret Kirumbuyo (2019 Scholar), coordinator of TAACS. The first session was an introduction to sexual and reproductive health and rights education (SRHRE) and information on sexual abuse and sexual violence amongst students in Tanzania. The session sought to effectively demonstrate how to identify sexual abuse and explored the environments in which sexual violence can occur.
Teachers attending the event were invited to participate in a group discussion on how to identify and report child abuse, how to identify areas on school campuses that are prone to harassment, and how to create policies and procedures that students can refer to in instances of sexual violence. As part of the discussion, it was highlighted that sexual violence against students can occur both at home and at school and that policies need to address different situations and contexts.
Identifying ways to mitigate sexual violence
Working in groups, participants were asked to identify ways to mitigate sexual violence in school environments and present their suggestions. Post-presentations, attendees were asked to discuss and agree the most effective ways to report sexual violence cases using the information shared in previous sessions. Outcomes from the group presentation session were gathered by organisers and will be presented to local government to advise the development of policies on preventing sexual violence in schools.
The way forward
The event facilitated meaningful discourse on children’s exposure to sexual violence. Participation from students and teachers showed a willingness for change, and teachers acknowledged the importance of Project Stand Up in the plight against sexual violence. A key takeaway from the event was the necessity of sustainable support in preventing sexual violence amongst school children from both teachers, students, and wider communities. It was also proposed that a consistent flow of resources to support the initiative and extensive training to equip individuals be developed.
Margaret and colleagues from The Pink Box Initiative gave a special thanks to the British Council for their support in organising the event and they look forward to additional learning and engagement opportunities in future.