For Tanzania's most vulnerable adolescents
A better chance in life
Tanzania has a young population. Half of its 54 million citizens are children. The country is home to 12 million adolescents (10-19 years), an age group expected to reach 30 million by 2050.
Adolescents are powerful agents of change, brimming with ideas and aspirations. However, many miss out on opportunities to be heard and act on their positive energies. The journey to adulthood, especially for the most marginalized and vulnerable adolescents, is often a bumpy road.
Concerns about the future led 19-year-old Halima, along with 1,500 adolescents from some of the poorest households in Tanzania, to participate in the Cash Plus initiative. The initiative was launched by UNICEF and the Government of Tanzania in 2017 as part of the national Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) programme that supports over 1.1 million extremely poor and food insecure households in the country. It provides a basic monthly cash transfer of US$4.40, plus an additional US$12.32 to households with children attending school and getting health check-ups.
“Adolescents in Tanzania face myriad risks as they grow up, and too often these risks are associated with household and community- level poverty,” said UNICEF Tanzania Representative, Maniza Zaman. These risks range from violence, early marriage, sexually transmitted infections to HIV. According to the Cash Plus baseline assessment report, 44 per cent of adolescents had taken a HIV test. “Providing cash alone to families is not a sufficient solution to address these risks. Therefore, a tailor-made package was added to the PSSN cash grant,” added Zaman.
The ‘plus’ elements of the package include livelihood skill- development, HIV, sexual and reproductive health education, linkage to existing SRH, HIV and violence prevention services, and small grants to support safe economic activities. The package is rolled out in two phases- a three-month education programme, followed by a nine-month mentorship during which adolescents are supported by trained community-based mentors and peer educators to apply the learnings and skills in real life situations.
Halima, like many other adolescents in Tanzania, had to take on the responsibility of her family when she was merely nine years old, becoming the sole caretaker of her grandmother and niece. The Cash Plus baseline assessment report shows that a majority of adolescents live in labour-constrained households, with large numbers of children and adolescents and few working-age adults. Most of these households are headed by the elderly, with an average age of 60 years.
Halima had to drop out of school, since she couldn’t afford an education and support her family at the same time. Her monthly income of approximately US$20 from selling bananas in her village in the Rungwe district in south-west Tanzania wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Households such as Halima’s are commonly exposed to shocks such as high food prices and illness of household members that force them to rely on informal coping mechanisms. The baseline report indicates that school attendance rates drop drastically with age, often due to poverty-related reasons.
“Adolescents in Tanzania face myriads risk as they grow up, and too often these risks are associated with household and community- level poverty.”
Halima volunteered to enroll for the Cash Plus initiative with the ambition to expand her business and get more capital to start a new one. In May 2018, she was among the first group of adolescents who completed the education phase, and progressed into the mentorship phase.
“The aim of the Cash Plus initiative is to support adolescents from poor households in pursuing their aspirations, gain knowledge and skills that are practical and life-changing and transition well to adulthood,” said Zaman.
Halima has already started applying the new tools learnt during the Cash Plus training, such as opportunity seeking, record keeping and saving on a day-to-day basis. She is also part of a peer-support group formed by the adolescents trained in her village. They continue to meet regularly to discuss and implement business ideas and plans, encourage one another to save and reinvest, and to get advice on other struggles in life. Some of them have been for an HIV test as well.
Through supporting each other to plan and set goals, this group of young, committed leaders have been planning ways to support many other adolescents with their newly acquired skills. With support from the UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti, the Cash Plus initiative will be evaluated in 2019 to determine the impact, inform national scale-up plans and generate global evidence.