THE fataki adverts which have been featuring on a number of local TV and radio stations in the country have a lot to tell of how young girls, particularly school going ones are being lured into risky sex behaviours.
In the recent past, the fatakis were commonly regarded as ‘sugar daddies’ while their female counterparts were known as ‘sugar mummies’. These are gown up men and women who decide to use their money to lure young boys and girls into sex.
The hard economic conditions facing majority of Tanzanians have made young boys and girls prone to the ‘sex vultures’ who are well aware of hardships facing the youngsters and thus take advantage of the situation to exploit them.
In the fight against HIV/AIDS, economic empowerment for the poor should be highly regarded. This is because most of those lured into sex through material things do so because they have no alternative.
It is understood that a number of youngsters indulge in risky sex behaviours in exchange for money, gifts and favours, which expose them to high risks of contracting HIV/AIDS, among other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In comprehension of the above problem, the Femina Health Information Project (HIP) realized that there is need for putting livelihood and income generation high on the agenda.
The link between healthy lifestyles and economic empowerment has been one source of motivation behind the theme for Femina HIP’s annual youth conference held in Dar es Salaam last week.
The conference brought together about 100 participants including 70 students and 35 teachers from about 500 Fema clubs countrywide.
Fema clubs, together with their guardians and teachers, from across Tanzania gathered in Dar es Salaam to explore the topic of the conference dubbed: “From Life Skills to Livelihood: Promoting Entrepreneurship Education in School Settings.”
Discussions at the conference covered entrepreneurship in the school setting and how to generate income through Fema clubs where members held discussions and group work on how to make the idea a reality.
Femina HIP has been using the annual youth conference to bring together students and teachers who have dedicated themselves to Fema magazine and the Femina HIP approach to healthy lifestyles.
The conferences are aimed at creating a forum where beneficiaries of Femina HIP products can meet each other as well as the staff; engage in thought-provoking discussions on selected themes related to life skills and come up with action plans on how to move forward with challenges in the school setting.
“Through years of working with young people we have come to appreciate the link between the ability to earn an income and the muscle to say NO to risky sexual behaviour. Issues of unemployment and lack of income contribute to poverty and the further spread of HIV among the youth,” noted Femina HIP Executive Director, Dr Minou Fuglesang.
According to Deputy Minister for Labour, Employment and Youth Development, Dr Makongoro Mahanga, about one million youths graduate from schools and higher learning institutions each year, but only 50,000 get formal employment.
This means that some 950,000 youths are left with nothing to do each year. With such an army of youngsters in the streets it is obvious that poverty will escalate and this portrays a gloomy picture for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The deputy minister adds further that unemployment rate in Dar es Salaam stands at 50 per cent, which is by any standards very high while in other towns it stands at 26 per cent and 8 per cent in rural areas.
Speaking at the youth conference, Dr Mahanga reminded participants that their bodies were not ‘money minting’ machines while admitting also that unemployment has to the large extent hindered the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Our education system should also take blame for the unemployment rate…Majority of students complete their schooling without entrepreneurship skills,” he said, adding; “To be an entrepreneur you need to be creative.”
Whereas students graduating from schools countrywide have also been blaming the government for the lack of jobs, Dr Mahanga told participants at the conference to change their paradigm from job seekers to job creators.
On his part, a teacher of Ndanda Secondary School in Mtwara Region, Victory Mbila admits that the current education system gives no room to entrepreneurship skills among students.
Mbila is confident that establishment of Fema clubs in schools across the country will enable students get life and entrepreneurship skills which they can put to use to improve their lives.
His school was voted the best Fema club for 2009 after having successful managed to sensitize establishment of Fema clubs in nearby schools.
“Among other activities conducted by our club last year, we managed to organize an entrepreneurship workshop which brought together students from four schools in the area,” he said.
For the past ten years, Femina HIP has been promoting healthy lifestyles with a strong focus on sexual health, HIV prevention, gender equality and life skills.
Remarked Dr Fuglesang: “Using our regular media products namely Fema and Si Mchezo magazines as well as our Fema TV talk show, we are increasingly assisting young people across the country in improving their financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills by providing information on saving schemes, how to set up small businesses and learn about market services.”
This according to her would be an opportunity for students and teachers to learn about how they can use Fema clubs in schools not only for HIV education but also for self-reliance.