Tanzania – Girls’ Empowerment

IDS and ChallengeAid are working together to support the Girls’ Empowerment through Sport project in Tanzania. This project helps to fight gender inequality and empower girls by using sport as a means of providing them with opportunities to develop leadership and life skills, access peer-led health education, particularly around HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, and participate actively in the development of their communities.

The project will reach over 3,705 disadvantaged girls and young women aged between 9 and 25 years, including in- and out-of-school girls, orphans and girls with disabilities in high-density and deprived communities with limited resources for youth.

The project will also impact on the wider communities reaching approximately 5,400 people with health messages and raising awareness of gender equality issues through community sports festivals and educational workshops.

The project is driven by the girls’ desire to have control over their own futures and the futures of their children. This project is not just about girls playing sports and having fun, albeit it is an important part of the project.

It is much more than that. It is about using sport as a tool for enabling girls to develop critical life skills and access peer-led health education.  It is about using sport to empower girls to make their own decisions in life and challenge the attitudes of others in their communities. It is about girls feeling good about themselves and having hopes and dreams for a better future.

The project will be funded and managed by IDS and ChallengeAid and delivered by local partner EMIMA – a Tanzanian non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation that uses sport for youth and community development. EMIMA which was established in 2001

Tanzania is an emerging, multi-party democracy. There are around 2 million orphans, over a million of whom have been orphaned by AIDS; one in 14 adults (age 15 to 49) test HIV positive and approximately 60% of all new HIV infections are occurring amongst young people, especially young women. The situation of girls is exacerbated by the unequal gender relations, which is highlighted by the alarming statistics from the Tanzanian Ministry of Health’s National AIDS Control Programme. The statistics indicate that less than 50% of men think that a woman has the right to refuse sex or insist on condom use. The sexual exploitation of girls is a significant factor in their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Girls who are orphaned or who are caring for parents living with AIDS are often responsible for meeting their families’ economic needs. In many cases girls engage in “survival sex” to earn money or necessities such as food and school materials. This gender-based inequality and discrimination leads to the increased vulnerability of girls to HIV and currently the prevalence rate for girls aged 15 to 19 is more than three times higher than for boys.

Enrolment in education has improved considerably in the last three years as a result of the
Primary Education Development Programme. Challenges still remain, however, in increasing the numbers moving on to secondary school (secondary enrolment is currently low at 15%), addressing gender differences at secondary and tertiary level and improving the quality and relevance of education at all levels. Reducing maternal mortality, and placing greater emphasis on reproductive and sexual health and women’s empowerment, will be a top policy priority for the next government.

In cultural contexts where girls have little say in how and when they will practise sex, and where girls are often prevented from becoming involved in activities and structures in their communities other than according to traditional roles, the education and empowerment of girls to make their own decisions and to challenge gender stereotypes in their homes and communities are critical if the girls of Tanzania are to have a brighter and healthier future.

Using sport as an innovative tool for girls’ empowerment and education

Sport is hugely popular amongst children and young people in the developing world offering an innovative and participatory way of engaging their attention and providing a unique platform for vital HIV/AIDS and life skills education and the encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices. Sport also presents opportunity for positive recreation and teaches young people the important values of tolerance, fair game and respect for each other, which they can then transfer into their day-to-day life.  It gives them a sense of purpose and self-belief, which is critical if they are to effect changes in their own lives.

Sport has shown to increase girls’ critical life skills, such as decision making, confidence and communication skills. This increased confidence enables them to make independent decisions, to say ‘no’ in matters of sex and to challenge the attitudes of others. Sport, as a structured activity, also creates a safe and supportive environment within which girls can access knowledgeable peers to discuss and deal with issues that profoundly affect them, such as physical/sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Sport has proved to be an effective and credible vehicle for dissemination of health messages and HIV/AIDS education and de-stigmatisation. Sport and play are used as a tool to tackle HIV/AIDS through active learning, raising awareness about HIV and motivating behavioural change.  As part of this approach, sport and play activities are designed to deliver key HIV/AIDS information as well as build key life skills in the areas of prevention, care and support.

The project was developed by EMIMA following a needs assessment in 2005 in consultation with the key project stakeholders – girls, their parents and community leaders – in several of the poor communities of Dar es Salam.

The project is based on the ‘peer leader’ approach encouraging girls to take on leadership roles, building a sustainable network of female role models. By using a cost-effective ‘training the trainer’ model the project enables young female leaders and educators to cascade their knowledge and skills to other girls through sporting and educational activities, which are organised and run by the girls themselves.

A ‘peer-to-peer education’ and ‘training the trainer’ approaches that underpin the project are critical to its sustainability, empowering project participants to take charge of their futures and share their skills and knowledge with others in their communities. The value of volunteerism among the girls is also key to the project’s sustainability, reflecting the philosophies of ’empowerment’, ‘ownership’ and ‘active citizenship.

Stories of Kulwa Mohamedy and Msiba Juma


Kulwa Mohamedy (pictured on the left) and Msiba Juma both joined EMIMA in 2002 when it opened its Vingunguti Centre in Dar es Salaam and have been attending regularly ever since..

Kulwa says that she has learnt a lot from EMIMA about HIV/AIDS and as a Peer Leader she runs seminars on this subject in her local community. She used to associate with street girls but now she provides them with advice and hopes to change their behaviour. She admits that if it wasn’t for EMIMA she may well have been a street girl herself. She is now attending vocational college where she is studying hotel management and she hopes to get a job in a hotel when she completes the course in 3 months time

Msiba is now 20 years old and lives at home with her mother and 7 other brothers and sisters. She is a keen footballer and has represented EMIMA in an international tournament in Zambia. She is also a Peer Leader and enjoys working with the younger children, particularly in teaching traditional dance and song.

With the support of EMIMA, Msiba has been able to attend secondary school and hopes to go on to university to study law and eventually become a lawyer. She says that through the activities of EMIMA she has become more confident and that she has better employment opportunities.

“Being involved with sport means I now have a lot of leadership skills, am self-confident, I can stand up in front of people and express myself. I can teach my peers too”

“Empowerment means a chance to go back to school and have a sense of real hope for the future because in my community people respect real things”.