Laila's quest to improve adolescent health and rights

Mar 13, 2024

At just 18, Laila is using her voice to improve the health and well-being of young people in Tanzania.

Laila is part of the Accelerated Hope and Development for Urban Adolescents in Tanzania (AHADI) project in partnership with Global Affairs Canada. Through the AHADI Impact Model, adolescent groups work through a weekly gender equality and rights-focused curriculum. This provides a safe space for adolescent girls and boys to become empowered with knowledge about adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As a lead volunteer, Laila also serves on AHADI’s Adolescent Steering Committee. She and her peers ensure the project is responding to any issues raised and meet with AHADI staff to give feedback on project activities. During a steering committee meeting in June 2023, Laila highlighted the challenges she and her peers face in getting adolescent-friendly health services. “Adolescents go to the health facility for services, but when we get there, the staff first question us, asking, ‘What is this adolescent coming to do here?’” she says, adding that staff act more like parents than healthcare support.

Laila also advocates for healthcare workers to improve the confidentiality of the information adolescents share during a healthcare appointment. “We go to the health facility, but the next day, everything we shared with the practitioners is known throughout the community,” she explains. “For example, the whole community knows about a group of girls who came for contraceptives.”

The issues Laila raises are among the challenges being tackled by AHADI. Alongside government partners, local health systems and the involvement of young people themselves, we’re working to increase the well-being and dignity of marginalized adolescents and ensure their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are understood and upheld. This includes a gender-responsive approach to strengthening health systems to provide equitable, adolescent friendly SRHR services.

Through Impact Model groups like the one Laila leads, adolescent girls and boys are also learning to exercise their agency and make informed decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as prevention and protection against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). In the meantime, local child protection committees are being strengthened to respond more effectively to SBGV, while particularly vulnerable adolescents are supported through economic empowerment initiatives.

Laila is eager for AHADI and the government officials to act quickly. “If you help us, maybe we will be able to help your child tomorrow,” she says. “If you help us, it is helping the entire community.”