Stopping Violence with Boys and Girls in Tanzania

One of my favorite parts about working at Firelight is getting the chance to see our partners grow and evolve. When I first started working here, I was given a grant file to review, as a part of my training. The file documented a grant that we had given to a Tanzanian organization called Kwa Wazee. I quickly developed a keen interest in this organization. Not only because I really liked their name, but also because their programs seemed very unique, yet practical at the same time. They seemed to have struck a balance between directly responding to the needs of their community, while remaining grounded and solid in their identity as an organization. Their growth and evolution has been modest and calculated, yet effective. Throughout our partnership with Kwa Wazee, they have served an important need in their community through their support of grandmother-headed households. This support extends not only to the grandmothers, but also to the children of these skipped-generation families, who are often left more vulnerable than children who live with their parents.

Kwa Wazee staff and children constructing a house for an older person in the community.

In 2010, Kwa Wazee began a self-defense program for girls. This program was born out of the knowledge that girls in this community were experiencing high levels of abuse and sexual violence. In their words, “We consider the self-defense as an important tool for both protection of the girl children and for improvement of their psycho-social well-being.” This program has provided girls with the skills and confidence to stand up to potential attackers, which in itself is a huge victory.

See photos from our recent trip to Kwa Wazee and the girls' self defense classes.

The self-defense groups serve another function though. They also provide safe spaces for girls to share stories about past abuse, and receive support from their peers and adults (who are chosen by the children). It was because of the stories shared in one of these self-defense groups that Kwa Wazee realized the need to initiate Child Protection Committees in various villages. These committees hold multiple responsibilities for keeping children safe, including referring cases of abuse to the police so that legal action can be taken.

Kwa Wazee recently shared this amazing short video with us about their self-defense program:


This organization didn’t stop there, though. Because of their commitment to address this problem holistically, they decided to develop a complementary program for boys in the area. They call this program “Peace is a Decision.” Within this program, boys are encouraged to challenge harmful notions of gender, and collaborate with their female counterparts in order to mitigate gender-based and sexual violence. It is clear that these young people have internalized what they have learned through their participation in theses programs, and have felt empowered to take steps towards creating a safer community.

Support Kwa Wazee and their efforts to protect children in Fund: Child Safety. Fund: Child Safety closes on January 31st so act soon!