By Paula Majumdar, May 2020

After an interview with Dr. Michael Mboya, a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at the Ministry of Health in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I gained some insight as to how impactful our Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases | East gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) trainings are for our participants. I really appreciated his enthusiasm for the topic and hope that we have the opportunity to foster this type of eagerness among participants in the future. Here are his responses below:

Before this training what did you think of the word gender?

Prior to the training I was already familiar with the concept of gender, however this training brought greater awareness around social inclusion. I learned more about marginalized groups and other pockets in society that are less fortunate.

What activities were most memorable for you?

The Vote with Your Feet activity[1] really brought my opinions and the opinions of others forward regarding different aspects of gender and social inclusion.

What is the role of women in your society?

Traditionally, women have played more of a domestic role in society, especially in the coastal region. However, in urban areas things are more “in the mix” with women working and taking care of the household. Now, the Tanzanian government is placing greater emphasis and resources in ensuring that Tanzanian girls are going to school and getting the same opportunities as boys.[2]

Has COVID-19 brought some of these differences to the forefront?

Right now, it is too early to tell what the effects of COVID-19 will have on our society.

What can Act | East best do to help marginalized groups in your country and ensure that everyone has access to health services?

Act | East should train groups on how to collect gender sensitive data. Right now, sex- and age- disaggregated is not being collected for NTD programs in Tanzania. People have a very limited understanding of gender in our society and they need further awareness and training on how to collect gender-sensitive indicators and sex-disaggregated data. WI-HER could work with local groups such as Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) to ensure that people are properly training on how to collect this data.

Following my interview, I noticed the urgency in Dr. Mboya’s voice when speaking of the collection of GESI data. It really highlighted to me the importance of using evidence to make decisions for the future. The more we know about which populations are not being reached during mass drug administration, the better we will be able to target these populations in the future. Using evidence regarding societal roles and tracking access according to age and sex, means we can make better decisions and provide the best patient-centered services responsive to needs. Without this NTD specific data, we are left in the dark, unable to make informed decisions which could truly benefit countries and help them to achieve their NTD control and elimination goals. Evidence-based decision making stemming from GESI data is the only way we can reach the last mile and achieve our goal to control and eliminate NTDs and fulfill the objectives of the Act | East project

[1] “Vote with your Feet” is a sensitization exercise used as part of the WI-HER’s iDARE methodology.

[2] In 2015, Tanzania passed the Tanzania’s Fee Free Basic Education Policy, which provides free basic education from pre-primary up to lower secondary school level. Recently the government lifted a ban which prevented pregnant girls from attending school, as a precursor to a $500 million Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project (SEQUIP) funded by the World Bank.