Jeska and Fajelina - education Tanzania


International Women’s Day: How Jeska and Fajelina turned their lives around in Tanzania through education

“My life has improved through the Joint Programme. At first, I couldn’t even think of running a business”, said Fajelina, a young woman turned entrepreneur from Ngorongoro in Tanzania.

On International Women’s Day, meet Jeska, a secondary school student and Fajelina, a young mother and entrepreneur from Tanzania, who have turned their lives around with support from the UNESCO-UN Women-UNFPA Joint Programme. Watch their story here and read more below

Girls’ education in Tanzania  

Despite efforts to provide free basic education for all children, the transition from primary to secondary education, especially for girls, remains a challenge in Tanzania. Over 40% of adolescent girls like Jeska and Fajelina drop out of school due to social and cultural norms, early marriage and early and unintended pregnancy and poverty.

In 2021, Tanzania lifted a longstanding ban preventing adolescent mothers from reintegrating the formal school system in Tanzania. It is estimated that 5,500 pregnant girls were forced to drop out of school every year as a result of this ban.

A holistic joint action in Tanzania

To address these challenges, the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme on “Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Education in Tanzania” was established, promoting gender equality and empowering adolescent girls and young women through a holistic joint action.

This innovative partnership applies a multi-sectoral approach mobilizing quality education, health services and infrastructure to ensure that girls attain their educational aspirations and young women acquire knowledge and life skills needed to lead engaged and healthy lives.

Advocacy efforts are also helping to mobilize the support of families, communities and religious leaders in favour of girls’ education. The joint efforts were carried out in Arusha, Kigoma, Mwanza, and Pemba, covering four districts in Tanzania Mainland (Kasulu, Ngorongoro, and Sengerema) and Zanzibar (Mkoani).

TUSEME: Let us speak out

“I almost gave up on my studies, but our safe space club ‘TUSEME’ encouraged me not to”, said Jeska, a secondary school student from Kasulu. TUSEME means ‘Let Us Speak Out’ in Kiswahili. The Joint Programme supported the opening and functioning of over 110 safe spaces TUSEME clubs, offering some 4,200 girls and 2,300 boys skills training, peer-to-peer counselling and sexuality education.

At the TUSEME clubs, girls and boys discussed sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, prevention of dropouts, early pregnancy and self-esteem, and often in dialogue with families and the community. Encouraged through the club, Jeska chose to study physics, a subject often seen as dominated by boys. She is now the lead student in her physics class.

“People should rethink their perception that women should not be educated”, said Jeska’s father.

VICOBA: Village community banking

The Joint Programme also provided alternative education opportunities to out-of-school girls and young women, including young mothers, through skills training, pre-vocational and entrepreneurship and ICT skills. For Fajelina and some 1,000 out-of-school girls and young women, this was a turning point.

“My peers and I received entrepreneurship training and learned how to make tie-dye fabric, nutrition flour and body oil”, said Fajelina. To support their small-scale businesses, the women established a Village Community Banking or VICOBA, representing 38 income-generating groups.

VICOBA empowers women economically, enabling them to own shares and loan from each other to increase their capital. “Women do not usually stand before men and speak their mind, but now men listen to me because they know I am capable”, said Fajelina.

Safe space clubs and community banking are among the good practices resulting from the work of the Joint Programme in Tanzania. These models have been adopted and replicated by local governments. “The Programme has changed community perceptions around schools, and even neighboring communities are learning and adapting these models”, said Almachius Njugani, project focal point in Kasulu.

The Joint Programme activities were completed in December 2021, but the impact of the efforts in Tanzania continue to benefit girls and their education, as well as their communities. UNESCO is also planning with partners for Phase II of the Joint Programme in additional countries.

More about the Joint Programme

The Joint Programme on Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Education is a partnership between UNESCO, UN Women and UNFPA. Phase I ran for five years (2016 to 2021) and applied a holistic, multi-sectoral approach. It reached almost 110,000 adolescent girls and young women directly and around 200,000 indirectly in MaliNepal and Tanzania through education, health and well-being support, sensitization and entrepreneurship skills.

It was made possible with the support of 15 million USD from the Republic of Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).