“Kujilinda, akili mwili na roho, ni kuwalinda – Nitajilinda.” (To protect yourself, mind body and soul, is to protect them – I will.) That is the message Nadia Klincewicz, American Peace Corps Volunteer and her Tanzanian Counterpart Hassan Issah, have been broadcasting in their village to join the fight against HIV and its effects on the community. Last week at the World AIDS Day Symposium organized by TACAIDS in Mwanza, Nadia and Issah had the opportunity to represent the U.S. Peace Corps’ PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program by sharing their community projects working with Men as Partners (MAP). The key message in the presentation emphasized that by working with men, we can in fact address many issues that make young women in Tanzania more vulnerable to contracting HIV. Nadia, Issah, and their team of young male leaders have been working to strengthen the resources that are available for the mental, physical, and intellectual health of men in their community. Using this wholistic and positive approach to men’s health, they have been able to work with men to address many sensitive issues such as gender-based violence and HIV.
During the presentation Issah and Nadia shared information about some of the MAP projects they have started, and they also highlighted other MAP projects being implemented by Peace Corps Volunteers working in other parts of Tanzania. The pair discussed their “Baba Bora” seminar, a two-day seminar for young fathers that provides them with tools, education, and empowerment for improved fatherhood techniques. They also spoke of their youth empowerment program involving volleyball, income generation, and community health education. Through the Peace Corps’ PEPFAR program, Volunteers across the country are doing amazing work to involve men in the prevention of new HIV infections. Many of these Volunteers are living and working in rural areas where there is little or no NGO presence or support. The program empowers men to be partners for the health of the family and the community, beginning with a focus on their own health and health-related issues. Per the Kiswahili quote above, Issah and Nadia amongst others, have been promoting the idea that by keeping our men safe and healthy, community health can be positively affected in so many ways. Their presentation served as a reminder that gender empowerment can only be achieved in a context where both men and women are included and work together for change. Nadia ended the presentation with a quote that is well known in the Peace Corp family: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”