11 October, a date to remember; even better, put it in your diary already for next year. It is the National Day of the Girl Child. It will be celebrated in all kinds of ways across the country, and in Arusha District, government officials got together with Ace Africa and CWCD for events at Engalaoni school, and at Lengiyave and Olbak school.
The Ace Africa team consisting of Gudila, Masanja, Joseph and Annemarie, set off bright and early and with perfect timing arrived at Engalaoni school just as the girls came up the road with their banners and placards, chanting “A Girl Child is number one in Tanzania”.
While this was an important day for the girls, it was also important to create some awareness and understanding amongst the boys about the plight of girls in certain situations. So the whole school assembled in the sunshine, and various speakers talked about the challenges girls face, child protection and the importance of reporting any issues or worries, all within the framework of mutual understanding and support, from peers as well as grownups, created by Ace. The variety in the way the messages were delivered, will help to embed the information, and the humour and songs kept the tone light. But the children were in no doubt about their rights and what they would like to happen. They want child labour to be abolished so that children can go to school; early marriage and early pregnancies were universally condemned by the children; and they all know where to go to report cases of rape or female genital mutilation. And even if they don’t remember, their friends will, and they will be able to help.
The girls at Engalaoni school were presented with a pair of pants, to encourage them to keep coming to school and feel protected. It is also a good habit to get into for when their periods start. Two big boxes of exercise books will provide additional incentive to come to school for those girls whose parents have other plans for them.
The programme was very similar at Lengiyave and Olbak schools which were visited next, and the large amounts of dust did not deter the children to get involved in the singing and actions, introduced by the different speakers.
It is great to see girls’ issues being taken seriously by children and adults alike, including those representing the government, and the future must be looking a little brighter for girls in Tanzania.