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Vitu Newala (Newala Youth Can)

A research and action project that aimed to both understand and respond to girls’ HIV-related vulnerabilities in Newala, one of the least-developed districts of Tanzania where susceptibility to HIV is heightened due to severely limited social protections.


What we did

The project included three main components:


  1. First, we conducted formative, participatory research to uncover the key sources and root causes of girls’ vulnerabilities:

    Before conducting the research itself, we identified and trained nine young women from the area as youth researchers. These women helped to lead the formative research, and remained very closely involved in all of the subsequent steps of the project. In this way, the project helped to position young women from Newala as authority figures and resources to their communities – something that’s highly unusual in the district and a first for each of the youth researchers who participated.

    This group was involved in two types of research:
    • Participatory learning and action (PLA) exercises with adolescent girls from four communities in Newala district. The girls participated in PLA activities such as drawing their dreams, discussing obstacles to those dreams, identifying HIV-related risks that they face on a daily basis, coming up with some solutions for addressing the risks and determining who in the community should be held accountable for those solutions.
    • Focus group discussions and key informant interviews with adults– parents, community leaders and service providers – to find out their views about girls’ vulnerabilities and the role the community could play in safeguarding girls’ health and well-being.
    (Based on the research, four main themes emerged as key sources and root causes of girls’ vulnerabilities: harmful gender norms, erosion of the social fabric, exploitation and early sex, and limited communication and support. You can read a summary of these findings or read more on the in-depth findings on the International Center for Research on Women website, in addition to more information about the participatory action research process.

  2. Next, ICRW, TAMASHA and the youth researchers developed and implemented a pilot life skills education (LSE) programme:Based on the research findings, we recognised that the inclusion of boys would be critical to the intervention phase. Therefore, the LSE programme was designed to reach young people of both sexes between the ages of 12 and 17 and to begin to engage adults in the community as well.

    “The main things about life skills, to me, is about involving boys in the problem because we believe boys are the perpetrator and once they get this training, life skills training, they learn about communication skills, they learn about negotiation skills. Not necessarily that a girl when she refuses you, you have to force her to sex. I mean, to rape her. So they also learn about coping with emotions. That’s what I think can help girls on the part of the boys. But also girls – the project could help them in being assertive – when they say “no,” they mean so. They mean no. They can say it with a very strong – within a strong way. Not like no (spoken softly) – you see? Also, as you know, most of the Tanzanians have this patriarchy system where most of the girls are not supposed to speak in front of boys so this project helped them to stand up and say, you know, assertively, that we need this but also helped them to set goals for their future – to see their life in a very different perspective. Like not necessarily that a girl can just get married and things like that. She can do some other things. By setting the goals, realising some opportunities, and being able to grab them. ”

    – Annagrace Rwehumbiza, TAMASHA 

    In my view, involving boys in the life skills training was a key component...

    Annagrace Rwehumbiza, TAMASHA
  3. The youth researchers and TAMASHA staff identified and trained peer educators that included sixteen older adolescent males and females (18-22 years old) on the LSE curriculum and participatory methods for peer education. Over the 7-month pilot period, these peer educators held 60 sessions in schools and their communities,reaching more than 1,600 young people with participatory activities and information about pregnancy, HIV, self-esteem, puberty, love and sex, goal setting, and friendship formation.

    So this was very much a skill-based training – assertiveness, self awareness, negotiating skills, interaction skills, and critical thinking. And it was very much participatory and again, as I said before, with the adults, it’s very much the same for the young people. This is the first time they’ve had a chance to sit and discuss together – to reflect together – what do we do? And why are we doing it? And is this the best way to do it? And how can we improve it? And so the solutions come from them. And it gives them a real sense of empowerment, again, because they’re coming up with what they think should be done. ”

    – Richard Mabala, TAMASHA 

    This was participatory, skills-based training because knowledge alone doesn't change behaviour - you need to have the skills to put that knowledge into practice.

    Richard Mabala, TAMASHA
  4. To determine the outcomes of the pilot initiative, we conducted qualitative assessment activities throughout the duration of the project, such as:

    • Repeating the same participatory learning activities that we had conducted at baseline one year later at the end-line points to see what had changed for these adolescent girls.
    • Conducting a series of interviews with young people in the communities to understand whether or not they had heard about the Vitu Newala project, whether they had been involved in the activities, and if they had been involved, what their impressions were.
    • Conducting an evaluation workshop that brought together the youth researchers, peer educators, parents and community leaders who participated in the project with district-level and local-level elected officials to discuss the project and any changes they had seen as a result.

Key Facts

“Vijana Tunaweza Newala” or “Vitu Newala” (“Newala Youth Can”)

Run by:
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Taaisisi ya Maendeleo Shirikishi Arusha (TAMASHA)  

Newala District, Tanzania

Adolescent girls

Structural gender-based inequalities / gender-based imbalances in power and lack of social protections for girls

Research protocol design and implementation; Youth researcher training; Pilot life skills education (LSE) programme development and implementation; Peer educator training; Ongoing qualitative assessment exercises