Highlights for the USA visit. This year I had an opportunity to visit the USA for the International Aids conference which was held in Washington DC in July. During this trip I also had the opportunity to take part in the pre conference at the Galladatte University. Below are highlights of the trip in the USA.
I had the privilege to accompany the Restless Development CEO,the USA country representative and the Director of investments and Partnership, to a donor meeting in New York. I also sat in the international USA board meeting ,and in both meetings I shared my experience as a volunteer and young staff member of Restless development. It was an amazing experience for me, it reminded me how far I’ve come with Restless Development.
During the Pre conference I had the privilege of meeting the Deputy Director of UNAIDS ………..,during the sessions I shared our work in Tanzania with the rest of the delegates at the pre conference. It was amazing to see how people were interested in the case studies and Researches that I shared around SRH. My aim for the pre conference was to build partnerships and networks for the Alumni in Tanzania, to see how best we could advocate for SRH rights as young people to our government leaders. So far I managed to register under Y+ Leadership Network. This is a network for young leaders in Africa who want to see change in the lives of young people in the communities they live in, by lobbying and advocating for rights that will fully support them to be productive and proactive in their communities. The network exists in Tanzania and I was privileged to be introduced by the Y+ LEARDERSHIP president of Nigeria, to the Tanzanian Network through email. I also joined the Youth Force and Advocates for Youth Networks. The advantage of being a part of these networks is that through them, we could run sessions especially during the pre conference and it’s easier to get a scholarship to both conferences (pre and main conference).
I joined Jean in her meeting with Rush Foundation during the main conference, which was very successful. We got to share with Rush our work in the other country programs. I also shared the State of the youth report as they were interested in youth led research.
We had a special meeting with Pepfer’s Technical advisor (HIV/AIDS prevention office of the U.S Global), during this meeting I shared our work both Tanzania and Zambia.
I met with the Former President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda during the main conference. Dr Kaunda has played a large role in Zambia through advocating for people living with HIV. He’s also been part of numerous Campaigns that address issues of stigma and discrimination.
I attended a session on the Princess of Africa Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Journey in the fight against HIV and Malaria. The session concentrated on African women empowerment. During this session that I shared briefly our work in Tanzania, and also the amazing work we were doing in raising young people to be at the forefront of change and development of which I gave them a practical example of myself. I shared the women and girls empowerment programme that Restless Development Tanzania will be starting and the Research on Barriers to women and girls development in Tanzania. Yvonne was amazed by our work. The beauty of it is that Yvonne also wants to be my mentor, and according to her she feels that I’m a young African woman who’s come a long way and she sees a bright future ahead of me. During the same meeting I met with the Deputy Minister of Children, gender and development of South Africa.
On the second day of the main Conference Jean and myself presented an Abstract that was done in done in Zambia, on access to youth friendly services in 4 communities. We also took the opportunity to share our work as Restless Development to the delegated that came to our poster. It was amazing to learn that Restless Development was mentioned and acknowledged by the National Institute of Medical Research in Tanzania (NIMIR) as an organization that contributed tremendously to the success of their 3 abstracts that were presented during the conference.
I had the chance to visit the Global Fund Advocate Network Booth where hundreds of people shared their personal experiences on their advocacy work in the field of HIV. I shared my story with the team, in which I spoke of what motivated me as a young person to become an advocate for HIV. This exercise came with a price, since they were only selecting the 30 best stories that would appear in their presentation during next year’s Global Fund Meeting with all the Global leaders. I was very lucky to be among the 30 finalists and was awarded a Kodak camera. In addition, I was asked to write 5-8 other stories which will feature in their website during the Global Leaders meeting next year in February. This will help to advocate for more funds for HIV activities, especially for African Countries which are the beneficiaries of the funds.
Another interesting session I attended was on the Public partnership sectors where our Minister of Health and Social Welfare Prof David H Mwakyusa gave a very beautiful speech. The speech
was about what Tanzania has done so far with the PPs funds in relation to meeting the priorities of the nation in line with health. As a representative of other young people in Tanzania, I wanted to know if at all those priorities that the government puts up are in anyway targeting the needs of young people especially in relation to access to youth friendly services on Sexual and reproductive health. The Prof’s response was,” the Government mainly they targeted the whole nation and not individual groups”. I politely challenged him by saying “as you are aware Sir, 66% of Tanzania’s population Is under the ages of 25, we make up most of Tanzania’s population we are growing big in number, and our needs are different from the other population groups”. My second question to him was, “do you think it’s possible for Tanzania to prioritize on Health specifically targeting young people?” His response, “we can chat about that when we get back to Tanzania”, he then gave me his personal mobile number and email address to set up an appointment. My suggestion is to come up with a presentation that will convince him as to why we think young people should be prioritized. With me is Prof David Mwakyusa Minister of Finance
During the last day of the conference I met with Anna Harman. She runs a foundation in the USA where they provide educative games to Africa for students on SRH and HIV. Games for the World foundation has a partnership with Dance4life and an organization called Grassroots soccer in Tanzania. Anna Harman donated table games to Restless Development and I came with the 2 large bags. She paid the excess luggage cost at the airport. Anna is interested in knowing If these games will impact the lives of young people, and would love to keep the relationship with Restless Development going. Ignas Kaongola our Programme coordinator for Dance4life is the one who connected me to her through email. I also took this opportunity to share with Anna about our work in Tanzania especially with youth camps. She was particularly impressed by the Umoja dada’s youth camp. She is interested in buying their beads to use them for raising funds for more games in Africa. I committed myself to taking pictures of the different items and sending them so she can choose what she wants. I will also talk to Liz to see how best we could do this for I belive it will support the Umoja dada’s group in raising income.
The trip to the USA was an opportunity of a life time and I made sure that I made the most of it, each single day that I was there. I felt very prepared and supported by both teams here in Tanzania and the USA (Jean) in making this trip a success.
My wish for Restless Development is to take advantage of such important international conferences to make our presence felt. Looking forward At the moment am looking forward to coming up with a hub. This is a mini workshop that I will run in Dar ,giving other young people a feel of how the conference was and share some specific sessions that I found very useful. This can be done between now and December. I’m told that through the American Embassy, the UN is coming up with a group that will make a follow up of the conference details, and also prepare for the next Conference which will be held in Australia. They will be getting in touch with all of the 40 people that attended the conference from Tanzania.
By Ntenje Katota
Research and Communications Assistant Programme Coordinator