See also the WSF World Social Forum 2007, Kenya.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I think that obstacles represent hidden opportunities. They make one think and act differently, often transforming our lives for the better”.
She says also: “I think I realized that we are all responsible to try to do something to alleviate such pain … “.
Neema Mgana – Tanzania
Linked with Legal and Human Rights Centre-LHRC’s new book.
Neema Mgana (29) is a young African activist who promotes social and political change. As an undergraduate student, she co-founded an Aids organization to serve children affected with HIV/Aids in Tanzania. In 2002 she founded the African Regional Youth Initiative ARYI, an organization that mobilizes youth and community-based organizations all over Africa on social and economic issues. She is also the Co-Executive Director of the International Council for Global Initiatives.
When Neema sees need, she acts upon it without delay, a friend of Neema Mgana says. 29-year-old Neema, became aware of pain and sorrow through her direct contact with patients, while she was doing an internship for school in a large hospital in Tanzania. I think I realized that we are all responsible to try to do something to alleviate such pain, she recalls the beginning of her engagement. At the same time, she did a lot of reading and research, and begann to think that she could actually do something. It wasn t a matter of what to do but rather when to start.
At that time children who were infected by HIV/ AIDS were closest to her heart. That became her issue of focus.
As an undergraduate student, the young woman co-founded an AIDS organization that served children affected by HIV/ AIDS. The project is now building a community centre that will provide education and basic health facilities for children and youth.
Her parents, whom she describes as exemplary role models, taught her the importance of education and development from an early age: They have paid for countless children to go to school. They would tell me from the time I was young that educating young girls was the landmark for social and economic development, she says.
Neema chose to study health. She completed a Diploma in Health Sciences with a Certificate in International Peace Studies, received a BSc Degree in Health Informatics and a Masters Degree in International Health with a Certificate in Humanitarian Assistance. She also took courses in management perspectives for public health practice, principles of epidemiology, communicable disease control and vector-borne disease control.
In December 2002 she founded the African Regional Youth Initiative ARYI, an organization working to mobilize hundreds of youth and community-based organizations in Africa addressing HIV/ AIDS. ARYI works with entire communities, Neema Mgana explains. There are many HIV/ AIDS organizations, but only a few that work at the community level, create space for raising a consolidated voice on issues and bridge community, national, regional and international organizations. The majority of people leading activities and programmes within the organization are under 30 years of age, this is really energizing, she points out.
ARYI addresses HIV/ AIDS in a comprehensive way: work on issues around youth, girls and women, but also community development programmes. Currently, ARYI mobilizes youth and communities around an internship and volunteer programme. The initiative is a result of the combination of excitement on what youth can do with respect to raising awareness on HIV/ AIDS at the community level, but also of the frustration over not knowing what other organizations existed at the community level, so as to form collaborations.
Neema sees herself as one of the millions of young African activists engaged to change the situation, to raise the voice of women and youth in Africa and to promote social, political and economic justice on the continent. I rarely get time to relax, because there are so few hours in the day, the sister of three older brothers laughs.
I think that a major reason of why I can devote more time to work is because I am single and don’t have children. I really applaud women who work either in or outside the house and have children to care for.
Currently in the US for further studies, Neema still organizes ARYI activities over the internet and in cooperation with reliable and hard working colleagues. I think that my up-bringing has taught me how to keep calm and maintain inner peace despite how hectic times get. As Cesare Pavese said, We do not remember days, we remember moments.
The ARYI, her baby, is a network of over a hundred organizations in Africa engaging in social, economic and political factors causing the spread of HIV/ AIDS in Africa. There was no platform, no vehicle for young people and those at the community level to work and voice our opinions and concerns in a united manner. That is the overall goal of ARYI, Neema Mgana explains.
In 2005, together with a colleague, she started to develop the International Council for Global Initiatives. We want to scale up successful models from the community and regional levels, like ARYI, and bring them to the global arena in order to support cross-regional learning and exchanges. In my opinion, she says thoughtfully, it is this cross-cultural collaboration that has often lacked in development work.
Within ARYI, Neema is involved in all aspects of the organization: She works on developing, implementing and evaluating programmes alongside programme partners, fundraising, writing reports, managing the website and attending meetings representing the ARYI. It is a tough task for the young woman to cope with her social engagements, studies and funding her education all at the same time. But she takes it positively. Obstacles represent hidden opportunities. They make one think and act differently often transforming our lives for the better. Asked about the motor that keeps her going she replies: I believe that we are all part of a bigger plan than we can ever conjure up and as a result, we are all interrelated. What you do affects me and vice versa. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).
The Ipuli project, a medical center to serve the entire population of 950,000 persons:
In October 2005 Neema Mgana, founder of the African Regional Youth Initiative, attended the Pop!Tech conference in Camden, Maine as part of a deligation on UN fellows. She had begun work to address the need for medical care in Ipuli. After viewing a presentation on Architecture for Humanity she asked if the organiation could support the development and construction of the project. During initial discussions she noted the work of Nicholas Gilliland and Gaston Tolila, finalists of the 2002 Mobile HIV/AIDS health clinic competition, and as a result we connected the team to the project. After initial funding was secured the local community donated ten acres of land. Architecture for Humanity provided funding and support for the design of the facility and plans began for a medical center. For the design team, the challenge lay in bringing advanced technology and sustainable design to a rural area of Tanzania using local labor as much as possible. (Read all on architecture for humanity.org).
Neema Mgana builds a network, which builds a clinic: Neema Mgana came to Pop!Tech last year as part of the African fellows program, a program that Global Voices helped organize with Sun Microsystems and the UN. She’s the leader of a remarkable AIDS treatment program in Tanzania, and was the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. (Read all on Ethan Zuckerman’s Webblog).