- Course: MA Social and Public Policy
- Year of graduation: 2022
- Nationality: Tanzanian
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I am the founder and Executive Director of ECAN Tanzania, a grassroots organization empowering women and girls to defy the odds and reach their full potential. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
I have 8 years of experience in policy advocacy and safeguarding children, girls and women’s right, and welfare. My policy advocacy has been through safeguarding and protection interventions, strategies, and projects. In my experience, I have worked with three international organizations namely Restless Development, Girl Effect, and Compassion International in strengthening internal policies for the safety and security of vulnerable groups including children, girls, and women.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
After a long period of engagement in policy advocacy, I came to realize that there is a wide gap between policy promises on paper versus what happens on the ground during implementation. And more agonizingly, when it comes to the marginalized/underserved population like children, girls, and women. Most policies have beautiful promises for the welfare and wellbeing of the people, however, when it comes to the implementation, things turn out not as expected and this disadvantaged population keeps suffering.
Laced with this anecdote, I was very much interested to get to know why it happens that way. I wanted to know how other states and societies are responding to such a challenge as violence against children, girls, and women through their policy formulation and implementation. I, therefore, decided to hunt for scholarships which I finally was awarded (Chevening).
However, while searching for what University to attend, I was recommended by friends including my then supervisor (Haika Mawalla) who once studied at Leeds University. I visited the module content and found it to be very interesting, including many other factors. I read about tutors like Nick Emmel and his work in research, and I said, Yes, I need to connect and learn from them.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
The vulnerability of children, adolescent girls, and young women is alarming globally. My passion is to bridge them from childhood, through adolescence into productive adulthood. In Tanzania for instance, 27% of adolescent girls between 15-19 years of age are already pregnant or mothers with their first child, and 37% of women aged 20-24 were already mothers with their first child before the age of 19 and, according to UNICEF report 2019, 83% of newly HIV/AIDs infection were the adolescent girls between age 10-19. This limits the chance for them to grow, learn and succeed in life.
This motivates me to seek to advance my critical thinking skills, build strong relationships, network with policy experts from multicultural settings and tap into other people’s expertise to support my country and other developing countries in solving such a challenge.
What do you think of your course so far – what aspects of the course have you enjoyed the most or are looking forward to the most?
The promise that was in this course when I decided to apply for it is what I have just received in reality. The best thing about this course is how the modules are interrelated and informative to each other. The modules build over each other in a way that a student grows their reasoning and critical thinking through a well-designed seminar and class discussions.
What would you say about the learning facilities at the University of Leeds?
I have studied both virtually and in person in my academic year. I studied remotely for four months before joining in person in January. Virtual services are very strong and complete. The materials are uploaded on time with all related reading materials and guidance. Minerva has been very advanced in terms of applicability, content, and security. The in-person learning infrastructure is incredible. Even when there was a need for social distancing, the classrooms were fit to accommodate the students. The other beautiful thing is that classrooms and the library are just close by where a student can easily switch from class to class.
How do you find the student support from the School?
You will never feel a stranger when at the University of Leeds. There are very strong and supportive systems, structures, and protocols for the holistic support of the student. I personally experienced a visa delay which affected my arrival at the school. Nevertheless, the University gave me a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to enough to be able to attend induction, start remote learning for four months, access learning resources online, do my assignments, find accommodation, open a UK bank account until I was finally able to travel. Everyone would be proud of such a welcoming and supportive institution, obviously!
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
The university is very close to the city. A student can easily find volunteer or internship opportunities when at Leeds University. I was able to find volunteer work as a Safeguarding Advisor is one of the institutions just by being at this university.
The Leeds University Union has been very active in organizing outreaches and get-together activities like sports, travel, etc which helps the student to interact and network.
What do you think about Leeds as a city?
It is a place anyone would prefer regularly visiting. The interaction, social life, social services, and the vibe is fascinating. I love the sport. I have been able to attend several premier league games at Elland Road. Shopping malls and restaurants are all around, with every single service. I feel so proud to have been in this city.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
With no reservation, with no hesitation, and with pride, I would and I will recommend a colleague to come for this course. No one would ever go through this transformative course and remain they were. I will talk about the friendliness and support from course tutors, the course content, and applicability in the real world.
What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course? What are your career aspirations?
Although I will be hunting job in the global institutions to gain more experience and apply my policy skills at the global level, when finishing my studies I will resume my work at my organization (ECAN Tanzania) and keep safeguarding the rights and health of children, adolescent girls, and young women.
A. The immediate plans;
1. To organize a creative and strategic civic engagement in the policy issues- The course has broadened my understanding of how to engage key stakeholders and policy networks. Although I had started it at the local level, I am now able to critically analyze the policy and figure out how to engage policymakers including government, politicians, CSOs, and community members.
2. The Tanzania National Plan of Eradication for the Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children (NPA-EVWC) comes to an end this year. The plan was established to last between2017 and 2022. I am planning to apply the program evaluation skills learned in this course to conduct outcome evaluation in the Kiteto district to find out if the program has made the intended outcome at the ward level. I have already started fundraising to facilitate this and I believe I will. The findings will be shared in the stakeholders and policy networks’ (policy makers) dissemination workshop that I will organize. If the government decides to go for this program for more period, I will again organize the realist evaluation through research design to find out how and in what context could the program work better. And this course will be my point of reference.
B. A five years plan; Through the knowledge, skills, and network I have gained at Leeds University, I am planning to initiate a Sexual Assault Response Centres that will act as a safe space for women affected by sexual violence to be able to heal, restore their hope, and be empowered to lead gainful and satisfying lives. In five years, I plan to have at least one center in five East African countries (strategies underway).
Any other comment you would like to make?
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the University of Leeds for contributing to my dreams in a very special way. I will never regret being here. And I will be a good messenger/ambassador about this beautiful heaven at any place I go; not only because of the beauty of this city, not only because of how competent and skillful the course tutors are, not only because of the competence of this course but also because this will always be my second home!