Adolescents in Tanzania face a lot of hardships in their lives and one of them being sexual violence and abuse. A lot of this sexual violence and abuse happens at home, school, in church and workplaces.
Recent research conducted in Tanzania has revealed that sexual, physical and emotional abuses are commonly experienced by large numbers of adolescence growing up in the country.
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As I was growing up, I was taught to always listen and respect my parents and elders. Young people look up to them, as they are the role models, they are a safe heaven and protectors. But times have changed and sometimes even the people we love and trust the most end up betraying us, hurting us and damaging us emotionally and physically.
Several victims survive being sexually abused and violated while several other victims end up in the streets, committing suicide, their self esteem shattered forever as they become insecure, they don’t feel good about themselves thinking they are not good enough, smart enough or beautiful enough.
It is estimated about 437,500 street children in Tanzania. Many live on the street because of the violence and abuse they face and suffer at home. Many end up facing even more abuse on streets from police, sex tourists and even each other.
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Some ran away because their parents didn’t believe them and felt ashamed so they end up roaming and living in the streets. To keep the pain away some end up doing drugs, stealing to survive and become prostitutes in order to support themselves.
According to UNICEF’s survey report on violence against adolescence and children in Tanzania (UNICEF Tanzania, 2011), in the midst of every female, three have reported to have experienced sexual violence before they were 18 years old whereas among every twenty boys, three reported a similar experience before they were 18 years old.
Reports have indicated that perpetrators of violence are often very close to the adolescences and their family members and known both to the children and general society. However, there is a high level of silence surrounding such acts of violence against adolescences.
I recently sat down with an old colleague of mine called Michael (not his real name) living in Arusha who got raped by a rich old man who was his neighbor married with children when he was sixteen years old.
“You think it’s only females who go through this? There are a lot of young men like me who went through the same similar position but can’t say anything because of fear and shame and the truth is that they will always deny, deny, no one will believe you, says Michael.”
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He further continues to say “One day I confessed it to my teacher who helped me get a counselor; I learnt to forgive and accept the situation and now I counsel other adolescence that went through the same situation as me. I am opening a foundation on Youth Violence to raise awareness and educate the youth and parents.”
Michael went on to explain that more parents need to be in tune with their children to be there for them and really help and listen to them and be in their lives.
(Image courtesy of Tai studio)
Everyone has to come together from individuals, community and society. More awareness needs to be raised, people need to be educated. Programs and the government need to create and provide opportunities to empower and support both girls and boys. Teach adolescence on the importance of healthy, safe dating and intimate relationship skills.