FP2020 spoke with Halima Lila, 28, of Tanzania as part of our ongoing series profiling young people from around the world working to advance SRHR — including family planning — in their communities. Halima is the Founder and Managing Director of Hope Centre for Children, Girls and Women in Tanzania.
Hope Centre was founded in the spirit of youth empowerment, led by young people that engage directly with their peers about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Why is family planning so important in your country, and what makes you hopeful for the future of young people like you?
We are noticing that adolescents and youth are becoming more open and enthusiastic at the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) awareness campaigns that we conduct in Tanzanian schools around the Kinondoni district in Dar es Salaam, Ifakara, and Mororgoro. Young people want to know more about SRHRs and the importance of practicing safe sex. Our peer-to-peer mentors — students that volunteer with us after school, over the weekends and holidays — are committed to answering the questions we get from these schools. We still have a long way to go, but I can say for certain that things are changing and we hope to make massive strides in the near future.
Can you share an example of Hope Centre’s family planning programming?
We recently launched a “mobile contraceptive intervention” in Mwenge. We started by interviewing a couple of people in the community where we work concerning contraceptive use. Many of them confirmed that they do not use contraceptives because it’s inconvenient to get them for free at the hospital, and that getting contraceptives around neighbourhood pharmacies and provision stores costs money. They also fear being judged negatively and the idea of going to health facilities for contraceptives makes them feel like they are sick, as we all know health facilities is for people who are sick. So, we decided to take contraceptives to the community. We conducted our first intervention at a couple of hair salons in the Mwenge, Kinondoni, and Ilala. While distributing free condoms, we also started conversations with young people about the importance of using contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies and protect oneself from sexually transmitted diseases.
We also offer services like these at our office, and hope to extend our free contraceptive drive to include contraceptive pills. We plan to continue mobile interventions in other neighbourhoods like Ilala, kinondoni, and Temeke where there are high concentrations of hair salons and secondary, high school and the University students.
What other Hope Centre activities are you particularly proud of?
We have peer-to-peer mentoring programs for family planning: active groups of adolescents and youth that we train and empower with knowledge to support their peers when they need help accessing contraceptives or understanding how best to use them.
Hope Centre also works hard to engage and involve boys and men, and raise awareness about the importance of family planning. We also provide FP advice and free condoms during local football matches which usually have a huge population of adolescent boys and youth. In Tanzania, boys and men are the decision-makers of the household. We involve boys and men so that they can encourage their partners to use contraceptives.
Hope Centre is looking for volunteers from all over the world who can assist with capacity building, grant writing, information and communications technology, fundraising, and training adolescents and youth on computer skills and the English language.