Produced by UNICEF, in cooperation with United Nations and civil society partners, ‘Adolescence in Tanzania’ highlights key challenges and opportunities for the nation’s teenagers. Echoing the ‘State of the World’s Children 2011’, UNICEF’s newest flagship report on the same theme, the Tanzania publication argues that investing in adolescents is important to ensuring young people have the skills and opportunities to break entrenched cycles of poverty. With more than a third of the population living in poverty and development budgets over-stretched, the urgency of that investment is clear.
As the report states, “These young people will fuel the future of the nation. By 2025, when Tanzania aims to achieve the major development breakthroughs defined in its national Vision, the country’s adolescents will be between 25 and 35 years old.” Their ability to contribute to the country’s social and economic advancement “depends a great deal on how we invest in and protect their growth and development during the coming years.”
Both progress and obstacles
The report contains insightful and often troubling profiles of young Tanzanians while also drawing heavily on existing data. It reveals important progress made on behalf of children as well significant remaining obstacles.
For example, between 2004 and 2010, pregnancy among girls aged 15 to 19 years fell by about 12 per cent. Still, more than 40 per cent of young Tanzanian women begin child bearing by age 18, leaving the country with one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world.
Net secondary school enrollment has also greatly improved over the past 5 to 10 years, yet two thirds of Tanzanian children still do not go on to secondary school.
Significant gains have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Many more girls who are sexually active know their HIV status and are less likely to engage in high-risk sex. Nevertheless, girls are still far more susceptible to HIV infection than boys.
And violence remains a profound threat to adolescents. In a survey of young people between ages 13 and 24, almost a third of girls and 13 per cent of boys reported experiencing sexual violence. Another study revealed that almost 75 per cent of girls and boys had experienced physical violence by age 18.
Committing to do more
The government is responding to these and other challenges, and UNICEF, along with other UN agencies and partners, is supporting these efforts. Public commitments to prevent violence and provide support to victims have been made by government ministries overseeing police, community development, health and education, and by the Prime Minister’s office and the Tanzanian Commission for AIDS.
The country’s youth are also working to improve conditions. Fifty adolescents from across the country, met to discuss the youth version of ‘Adolescence in Tanzania’, and submitted their own set of requests and commitments to Speaker Makinda during the report’s launch.
The youth version of the report is also being widely distributed through secondary schools, district offices and civil society groups to engage as many young people as possible.