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Fighting for education

Fabio Costa, Senior Waiter and Cafe Coordinator Allen & Overy, Sydney 
Visit to Tanzania, September 2016

As soon as I arrived in Tanzania, I felt at home. The street vendors, controlled chaos, vibrant colours, sounds and rich smells reminded me of Brazil and the coastal town where I spent so many school holidays. Armed with oodles of malaria pills, plenty of mosquito repellent, sunscreen and material about the Amref and Allen & Overy charity partnership, I embarked on a 27 hour journey across the world, to Meatu, a district in Tanzania.

The following days were intense. We visited Neng’obhoko Secondary School and had debriefings on project activities and performances by students and peer educators. We also took part in Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights sessions with students, had a tour to Mwabuzo Dispensary Project, experienced performances and drama by the local art group, and met local residents and tribes. 
After absorbing – or at least trying to – all the information from the various meetings, talking to locals, seeing how they liveand learning about their culture, I started reflecting on how education is essential and crucial to having a better life. Before Amref reached the Meatu district, the young people in this community were struggling. However, after two years of partnership with local schools the situation for young people is improving. 
In the past, young girls were expelled from school when they became pregnant. Since Amref’s intervention, no girls have been expelled from Neng’obhoko Secondary School. Teenagers now know their sexual rights and how to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. They felt comfortable about discussing issues related to sexual health with their peers, alongside their teachers and parents. 
In Mwabuzo, we met a sixteen year old girl and her father – an elder from the local Taturu tribe. In June this year she was due to be circumcised (although illegal, Female Genital Mutilation is still practised in Tanzania and neighbouring Kenya). After hearing her story, Amref staff engaged and educated the leaders and parents about the short and long-term health consequences of the practice and how the cut breaches human rights. After consideration, the girl’s parents decided not to go ahead with the cut. Now, FGM is no longer practiced in the village. 
All the crucial changes above happened because of education. 
In the developed world, education is something that is so readily available that most of us take it for granted. In countries like Tanzania, education and the right to learn is something that people still have to fight for. 
Thanks to education, intervention from the Tanzanian Government and partnerships between organisations like Amref and Allen & Overy, girls now have the right to continue their studies, and youths are learning how to avoid early pregnancy and STIs. The result of all of this is that young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

By the end of the Allen & Overy / Amref partnership, 170,000 young people will have been reached in Handeni and Meatu, Tanzania. Take a look at this short video documenting our achievements.