Four friends banded together to break the cycle of violence for the next generation.
George Malale, Festo Chengula, Kondo Rashid, and Nassoro Mkwesso had a rough start in life. The childhood friends in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, spent much of their childhood on the streets, out of school, and often experiencing abuse.
But the four friends were determined to break the cycle of poverty and violence in their communities. As they grew older, they realized they all had different skills that they could utilize.
Working voluntarily, the four friends established the organization in 2007, and in 2009, the The Kigamboni Community Centre (KCC) was officially established as a non-profit. Word spread quickly, and they were able to scale up their work through partnerships with the Tanzanian government, UNICEF, and others.
“By using different talents, we got together to provide support for those like us who were suffering. We were working for free, only with the hope that later on we could generate income.”
Today, KCC boasts 45 volunteers and serves 200 children and youth per day between the ages of 6 and 25, including many street children.
The center has four pillars of work — academic, business, activities, and social — through which they provide schooling, training for income-generating activities, talent development, community outreach, and referrals.
One of KCC's key programs is “Preventing Violence Against Children and Adolescents.” They use the data from the Tanzania Violence Against Children Survey, led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as part of the Together for Girls partnership, to help inform their programming.
The data shows that the problem often starts at the family level, which is why they provide counseling for parents on violence prevention and children’s rights. They also see a lot of violence in schools, so they work with teachers on prevention efforts.
Justine S. has been a teacher for 16 years, and has been working with KCC for the last three since their “Preventing Violence Against Children and Adolescents” program began. “There were so many cases that we were receiving. I felt the one unit that could really help was KCC,” he said.
Justine deals with a lot of boys who are experiencing – and perpetrating – physical violence. “Some children were habitual offenders. And we saw they were victims of violence in their own homes,” he said. In these cases, he refers the child to KCC where they work with the police gender desks (LINK) to pursue the perpetrator and ensure the child is safe. “We go about this whole process with extreme confidentiality."
Justine thinks it is critical to engage parents, but finds it is often difficult to get the parents to cooperate because it is seen as a personal matter.
“But once you spend more time with them, and you tell them about why what you’ve seen is a problem, they begin to understand. Often they were a victim themselves so they’re just repeating the cycle. Then we talk about what to do next,” he said.
After counseling and parental workshops "they understand sexual violence and the consequences a lot more now. No one had ever talked about it before.”
Puska was a participant in the parenting program, which targets the most vulnerable families. In the program, she says she learned parenting skills as well as economic activities.
“I learned to check the child when he comes back home and talk to him about what he needs. If you see something different, you need to ask them about it. I now know how to identify the signs of violence,” she said. She also learned about non-violent discipline and how to talk to your child about violence.
“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."
"I started working in violence prevention because I believe that children need to be well-protected to ensure that they can grow and develop."
“Children’s issues are not a single person’s responsibility, we all must work in cooperation for the benefit of the child."
Through these programs, KCC is helping to end the stigma around violence, encouraging a broader dialogue about prevention, and breaking the generational cycles of violence.
“My own experience seeing violence in my family has stayed in my mind. It gives me the strength to keep going and educate the community that these acts are unacceptable," George said.
This story was created as part of the Together for Girl's partnership's trip to Tanzania. Special thanks to the Impact and Innovation Development Centre.