On Saturday the 17th August 2019 Cedar Tanzania celebrated International Youth Day for the first time, in the village of Kamanga.
It took the Cedar Tanzania team a lot of time to set up the party tents, chairs and tables around the edges of the school football field. But time is relative here in Kamanga, where the event that was meant to start at 12 noon got under way closer to 2pm, with nobody even batting an eye-lid at the much later start. But the party mood was helped along with the blasting of bongo flava music from giant speakers, which would inspire a dance move or two from one of the Cedar Tanzania team members, much to the amusement of his or her neighbours.
Members of the village began to trickle in at the sound of the attractive music and the intermittent loud microphoned invitations from a SASA! community activist welcoming the youth of the village to come and celebrate their day. Children on over-sized bikes rode around the field, a few young boys began to play with a balloon that had gotten loose from a corner of one of the tents, and food vendors settled themselves on the outer circle of the field ready to sell their wares of samosas, sodas and iced lolly-pops. And in time, which as you’ll remember is very relative, there gathered a crowd, which the community activist felt sizable enough to commence the day’s planned activities.
An elderly gentleman entered the centre of the field and entertained the gathering youth with his dramatic and flamboyant dance moves, announcing that the day’s fun had indeed begun. The ever increasing crowd, which maximised at around three hundred, continued to be entertained by choreographed dance groups and by individuals having dance offs. And in the midst of the games that followed - egg and spoon races and tug of war contests - the youth also got to hear about Cedar Tanzania’s many projects in the district. Paulina Urassa, Kamanga Health Centre manager, spoke about the different medical services on offer at the health centre and once again reassured the crowd that the health centre was not a private entity but a government run medical facility that charged local rates. Paulina also announced that the school classrooms, on the far side of the field, were opened and hosted a medical team from Kamanga Health Centre that was ready to test anyone desiring to know their HIV status. Throughout the course of the day 107 young adults were tested for HIV and all got to know their HIV status by the end of the day.
The SASA! teams were also able to facilitate discussions through displaying posters and drama performances about the link between the increase of HIV infection and violence at home and encouraged the listeners to not keep silent if they were experiencing violence but to go to the village representatives and report the incidents. The different SASA! village representatives stood up and introduced themselves. Cedar Tanzania is so proud to have introduced the SASA! initiative to the village of Kamanga, as it has now seen a slow increase of women reporting incidents of violence, breaking their silence. And now these women can begin to get the help and support that they desperately need from the village leaders and police domestic violence unit.
Other Cedar Tanzania projects were also presented like the Tackle Africa program that uses football drills to discuss issues of respect and sexual health to young people and the Nguvu ya Binti project, which teaches young women to sew reusable sanitary pads as part of them learning about entrepreneurial business management.
The first ever International Youth Day in Kamanga was indeed a success, as it managed to deliver very important information about sexual health and safety and community empowerment with fun and games to the youth of Kamanga village and the surrounding district. Cedar Tanzania is Changing Lives!