Ahmed Rashid Ali has dedicated his career to ending violence against children. As a UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, he has unique insight into the progress and prognosis of the fight against gender-based violence and violence against children in Zanzibar.
Together for Girls sat down with Ahmed to learn more about UNICEF's work in Zanzibar, and to discuss what keeps him motivated to push for change.
A multi-sectoral approach
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. According to the Tanzania Violence Against Children and Youth Survey conducted in 2009, 6% of girls and 9% of boys who were surveyed in Zanzibar reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence before the age of 18.
This data sparked action in Zanzibar to prevent violence against children, through a robust multi-sectoral approach. Examples include the development of one stop centers to help survivors access a variety of services quickly and easily, the launch of Police Gender and Children’s Desks in all 37 police stations in Zanzibar.
Additionally, Zanzibar established Women and Children Committees at the national, district and shehia levels to coordinate implementation of the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children, launched in 2017.
Biubwa Ali Mohammed, a Child Protection Officer in the National Child Protection Unit, noted that UNICEF’s role is critical in helping end violence against children in Zanzibar.
“We need UNICEF support to accomplish what we want,” she said. “We don’t work in isolation because this issue is not isolated. We work with the Department of Women and Children, Ministry of Health, the police. We need to work together.”
TfG: Across the globe, UNICEF has played an integral role in helping national governments end violence against children. Can you tell us about the role that you and UNICEF Zanzibar played in the Violence Against Children and Youth Survey and developing the action plan?
Ahmed: During the time when the Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) was being done in Zanzibar, I was working with Save the Children and collaborated with UNICEF in facilitating the study. The UNICEF Zanzibar field office was in charge of managing the study, reviewing the report and getting the government to approve the report.
Since I joined UNICEF, I have been responsible for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the VACS response plans, and after five years of the VACS Response Plan, I took the lead on behalf of UNICEF to coordinate support to the Government of Zanzibar is developing the comprehensive “National Plan of Action on Violence Against Women and Children,” which is the first national plan to cover child protection, empowerment of women and addressing gender-based violence in one document.
TfG: What are some of the biggest challenges that you've faced?
Ahmed: Lack of awareness, knowledge, and understanding about violence against children among decision makers, implementers, and communities. Lack of proper government budget allocations on child protection at the central and lower government levels. Low technical capacities among frontline workers. Lack of sufficient and trained manpower to deal with child protection cases at all levels.
TfG: What is one solution in Zanzibar that you think is helping to break the cycle of violence?
Ahmed: Increasing transparency in responding to cases of violence, which I believe is a result of the ongoing national awareness campaign.
TfG: Why do you think it is important for men to get involved in the fight against gender-based violence and violence against children?
Ahmed: Involvement of men in the fight against violence against children and gender-based violence is inevitable to ensure prevention, reporting, and changing the offending behaviors.
“My dream for these children is for them to reach their own dreams according to their own desires.”
“What gives us hope is how we are rescuing these children. If I stop doing this, who will?”
“My request is that we reach more girls all over Tanzania. They need to know that there is a safe space to talk. We’re here.”
“My salon is famous within the community. People are brought to me even if I don’t know them because they know that I am a champion for the victims of sexual violence.”
“With the one stop center, more victims get the services they need on time, right away."
“Children’s issues are not a single person’s responsibility, we all must work in cooperation for the benefit of the child."
This story was created as part of the Together for Girls partnership’s trip to Tanzania. Special thanks to UNICEF.