By Valentine Muhindo Masereka, Regional Chair, Tanga chapter of the Tanzania Girl Guide Association.

I am very passionate about nutrition and helping other girls develop skills and confidence to fight for their rights. Malnutrition and violation of girls’ rights are some of the persistent challenges in Tanzania, and I am committed to do what I can to address them. I am the regional youth chairperson for the Tanga chapter of the Tanzania Girl Guide Association and a Girl Powered Nutrition program advocacy champion. As an advocacy champion, I use the internet and social media to find data and get to know how other people across the world tackle their challenges.

I want to end iron deficiency anaemia among girls and young women. We need to make sure that girls are prioritized by governments and we need to tackle food taboos in society. I’m using digital media to work on these issues.

Social media helped me a lot to plan for a voluntary walk I organized aimed at amplifying girls’ voices on good nutrition. It was a one kilometre walk with about 150 participants in Tanga (where I live). I wanted to create a space where girls could meet and talk to decision makers.

It’s very important to create spaces like this so that decision makers can directly hear what we think they should do to improve and develop girls’ health and nutrition. It’s also very important for girls to speak up and be heard since people should not be making decisions and plans for us without us. Speaking out is also very important to me personally as it’s brought a lot of changes in my life and my community as well.

In order for this event to be successful, I knew I wanted someone with political power to attend. I researched who I wanted to contact and I sent to an email to the Honorable Ummy Ally Mwalimu, the Minister of Parliament for Tanga, to ask her to be the guest of honour. I felt very proud and excited when she accepted. I remembered the slogan “hard work pays” as I saw my efforts rewarded.

Once I secured the guest of honour, I got to work to get the word out about the event. I used Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to advertise, which helped me to get many people to participate, especially youth.

The event went really well and it was such an amazing experience for me and the other girls. The girls attending were really excited to get a chance to speak to the Honourable Minister. Girls presented what they learned from the Girl Powered Nutrition program, explaining how it has impacted their lives and what the government should do to improve girls’ nutrition. The minister promised to work on the challenges presented by girls. Following that, we were invited to another event where we handed over food fortification machines to our regional leader, which was also attended by another MP, the Honourable Jenista Mhagama. I also got a chance to speak there and provide a general overview of the Girl Powered Nutrition activities.

Girls marching in an awareness walk in Tanzania to raise awareness around adolescent nutrition.

Through social media, I also find out about different opportunities. This is how I found the opportunity to apply for funds from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and Nutrition International. The funds were part of the Girl Powered Nutrition program and awarded to advocacy champions to support their projects. I used the funds to organize the voluntary walk.

As the regional youth chair, I organized a WhatsApp group with other youth in my region and we conduct trainings on Girl Powered Nutrition topics, and also for other WAGGGS campaigns like Free Being Me, Surf Smart and Stop the Violence. WhatsApp has been a very helpful tool to us during COVID-19 when we could not meet physically as we still have the chance to talk as youth. I hope to invite trainers from other organizations to train us through our WhatsApp group and continue to use my voice to raise awareness.

Nutrition International partnered with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to promote better health for girls and young women. Together, we developed the Girl Powered Nutrition program using an informal education methodology to deliver nutrition curriculum to enable guides and scouts to receive a nutrition badge. The program has been piloted in Madagascar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. In June 2019, Valentine was part of the WAGGGS delegation to the Young Women’s Advocacy Forum at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, Canada, where she advocated for better nutrition for women and girls globally.