Yoeza Mbonea Mnzava is Empower Tanzania’s Education Programs Director. He submitted the following letter as a community rallying cry to protect the most vulnerable during this complex time:

School holidays usually bring joy to many children. Boys and girls often look forward to spending quality time or having fun with family and friends. These experiences lead to fond memories that last a lifetime.

All children have the right to such experiences. But this dream often remains unattainable in communities where harmful cultural beliefs and practices like female genital mutilation and child marriages still thrive.

In such areas, school holidays can turn into nightmares for many children who are at risk of facing betrayal from family and community members charged with the responsibility of protecting and loving them. Unfortunately, some children know too well the anguishing pain of such betrayal. “What they did to me was so painful and I couldn’t believe that people I love could make me suffer so much,” one child told me.

Like so many countries throughout the world, as part of the many measures put in place to enhance social distancing and halt the spread of Coronavirus, the Tanzanian government made a deliberate decision to close all learning institutions after the first COVID-19 case was reported on March 17, 2020. Currently, as COVID-19 cases slow, public activities like education, tourism, and others are now open in Tanzania, but are following health precautions.

While trying to keep children safe from the virus, reports indicate that beyond the health impacts of COVID-19, children are also likely to face an increased risk of neglect, abuse, exploitation, and other forms of violence.

Knowing this, Empower Tanzania has called on parents and caregivers, as well as relevant government bodies and civil society organizations, to play their part in ensuring that children are protected from all forms of abuse.

Empower Tanzania, through its on-going programs across the country, is collaborating with government bodies and other key stakeholders to advocate for children’s rights and ensure that they are protected from all forms of violence as the pandemic prevails.