By Senfuka Samuel
Jambo and Karibu Sana!
White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania (WRA TZ) held a White Ribbon Day on 15th March, 2011 at Songea, Ruvuma Region. Ruvuma is located in southern Tanzania (TZ) over 1000km from Dar es Salaam city. A few kilometers into the journey to Ruvuma you encounter a naturally gifted area with vast mountain ranges covered by vegetation and punctuated by gorgeous rift valleys. Its wilderness rich in diverse wild animals roaming the nice looking green savannahs, sustainably protected forests forming a wide stretch of canopies and all these make a 14-hours journey less tiresome!
The WRA TZ White Ribbon Day kicked off with a match at led by a youth band and guided by police women and men donned in white. Participants came from different regions of TZ and across the borders. Matchers dressed in white T-shirts with black umbrellas overhead inscribed on maternal and newborn health advocacy messages. This caught the eyes of onlookers as they matched through Songea streets to Maji Maji Memorial Grounds, venue for the function.
TZ White Ribbon Day drew diverse participants from government, community, development agencies, schools, NGOs in the health sector not forgetting a team of 4 people from WRA Uganda. When it came to speeches and remarks the issue of diversity manifested itself, one people, one issue of maternal and newborn health but different languages! Not even being East African could leverage the Ugandan team fully understand Swahili, official language of TZ. Nevertheless, we picked pieces and bits-of course this has to do with the traditional stereotypes Ugandans associate with the language, which is a discussion for another day.
The day celebrations were graced by the Ruvuma Regional Commissioner as a Chief Guest. He closed the day long celebrations by officially launching the WRA TZ Advocacy package booklet.
Other partner organizations and agencies who attended included representatives from UNFPA, USAID, Care, Plan, WHO, Save the Children, UNICEF, AMREF TZ, Women’s Dignity, Maisha, AZANA Bank among others.
|Hillary performing at the function joined by the youth|
The long awaited moment came when a Ugandan team was invited to make some remarks. The team underscored the need for our governments to move away from commitments to action and also called upon the different partners to form an East African platform to keep the debate and momentum of maternal and newborn health on the East African Community Agenda. This was punctuated by a lively performance from our own Hillary Musiima, WRA Uganda youth member. He thrilled the audience by a song “A better Day for Mothers” which moved every one even from the high table to jig on the floor! The students prayed that the singer continues with the songs but it could not happen due to other items on the programme. He had earlier welcomed the participants by a song “Let us Stand”.
The enthusiasm of the audience inspired Hillary as well to think of composing a song in Swahili, and guess what it was done before we left TZ! The new song is titled “Kina mama wa naliya” translated as Mothers are Crying, thanks to Imelda, WRA TZ youth member who offered translation services freely and Andy John from TBC who shoot the video footage. That is what it means to be an alliance-harnessing and bringing together our individual competences. I guess now everyone is impatient to listen to that new song at the WRA Uganda Youth Concert on 26/03/2011 at Makerere University. Asante Sana Imelda and Andy!
WRA TZ was very excited about the involvement of the youth in promoting safe motherhood by their Uganda counterparts. This was a big lesson they took seriously for consideration.
All said and done, the situation of maternal and newborn health in TZ is not so different from Uganda’s not even the East African region as a whole. In TZ 51% of pregnant women have access to qualified health worker during birth compared to 42% (UDHS) in Uganda. Current health expenditure is only US $14 per capita way short of WHO’s minimum standard of US $40. Like in Uganda other issues dogging the TZ health sector include less health workers for maternal health, inadequate health equipment and supplies.
This calls for regional concerted effort to strengthen and sustain our advocacy efforts towards increased investment in health care to save lives.