Christina Nsekela – Tanzania

Linked with Uzazi na Malezi Bora Tanzania UMATI, and with Tanzania Association of NGOs TANGO.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “The approach to population and development should be interdisciplinary. Learn people’s priorities and become their partners in development. That approach will promote a peaceful and hopeful future”.

She says also: “Even at an early age, I wished something could be done to alleviate the suffering,” she recalls. “As I grew up the memories of the misery experienced by families in my community stayed with me. Later I realized that the situation also existed in other communities in Tanzania and other developing countries in the world”.

Christina Nsekela - Tanzania rogné redim 70p.jpg
Christina Nsekela – Tanzania

She works for the Family Planning Association of Tanzania UMATI (described on Cambridge Journals), the Tanzania Association of Non-Governmental Organisations TANGO, and the Promotion of Rural Initiatives and Development Enterprises Tanzania PRIDE, see also this link.

And she says: “I believe that if the they are enabled to access financial facilities without collateral and unnecessary bureaucracy, the world will witness change and improvement in the lives of poor and vulnerable communities”.

Download: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MICROFINANCE MODEL TO SUPPORT YOUTH MICRO BUSINESSES (February 2004, 81 pages in pdf), REPORT ON BEST PRACTICES WITH REFERENCE TO LENDING MICROFINANCE ORGANISATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA.

Christina Nsekela is the pioneering and now retired Chief Executive Director of Umati, the family planning association of Tanzania. When she started working with communities in the 1960’s, family planning was a taboo. Christina Nsekela initiated programs that have destigmatized family planning. Many agencies have adopted her initiatives, such as the teaching of family life education in schools by the Government of Tanzania. In retirement, the mother of two remains an active member of Umati and works with small and medium enterprise organizations in her rural home.

Born and raised on the shores of Lake Nyasa, a poor rural setting in southwestern Tanzania in the late 1930s, Christina Nsekela experienced poverty, ignorance and diseases as common conditions of life. Social services such as education, medical care, clean water were not available within easy reach. Many babies and young children died before they were five years old. This disadvantaged environment spurned the young Christina to have a vision and make a difference in the world.

Christina moved to the capital, Dar es Salaam, where she got married. The Girl Guides Association of Tanzania employed her for seven years as a teacher and social worker. When she learned about the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (FPAT) in early 1969, she volunteered twice a week after her office hours. “I became familiar with the organization and its role in the society after six months of voluntary service,” she explains. “I appreciated the relevance of the program in addressing some of the socio-economic needs of our people through family planning services. The experience triggered my interest, so when UMATI offered me a job I accepted without hesitation.”

UMATI is the well-known Kiswahili acronym of FPAT, namely “Chama cha Uzazi na Malezi bora Tanzania.” As the first employee and CEO of UMATI in September 1969, Christina became the pioneer of the family planning revolution in Tanzania and East Africa– at a time when family planning activities were a taboo and alien to the people.

Responding to unmet needs of the community was her mission. She instituted programs to address identified concerns. Under her guidance UMATI initiating community based pilot interventions, advocated for improvement of negative policies, addressed scourges of the society like infertility and teenage pregnancies, established viable and adaptable networks, and created structures to bypass bureaucratic inertia.

“We built a youth centre for teenage mothers which received two international awards, one from UNESCO,” she says. Other projects were voluntary surgical contraception, infertility clinic services, peer counselling and a family life education project managed in collaboration with the Christian Council of Tanzania. UMATI also organized seminars and workshops on population and development for members of parliament, senior government and religious leaders. She championed the introduction of family life education for youth and youth centres which have become the major mode of addressing youth reproductive health issues.

Many agencies have replicated the programs. A large number of NGO’s now provide family planning services. “The approach to population and development needs to be interdisciplinary,” Christina Nsekela summarizes her experience spaning five decades of proactively addressing people’s concerns. “We need to listen carefully to the people so that we may learn their priorities and pressing needs and become their partners in development. It is through such an approach that I see the beginning of a peaceful and hopeful future. My vision is to see bilateral and multilateral agencies improving the conditions of life for the poor wherever they are, and developing effective ways for doing so,” the widow and mother of two grown-up sons states.

Besides her demanding work for UMATI, she served as chair of the Tanzania Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO) for 12 years, leading TANGO delegations to the UN Women’s Conference and NGO Forums in 1985 and 1995. Her determination, endurance and hard work have destigmatized family planning, saving thousands of lives and steered the Tanzanian government to integrate family life education in the schools curriculum.

Christina Nsekela is a national icon for reproductive health and community initiatives, which address the root causes of poverty, ignorance and disease. She retired from UMATI in 1994, but is still engaged in small and medium enterprise organizations, women’s groups and church groups in her rural home. She is especially interested in micro-finance projects for the rural and urban poor. Christina and her late husband planted more than 5000 trees over the past four years. She aims to plant at least one thousand trees a year. An active life driven by passion does not end with retirement. (Read all on 1000peacewomen).

Read: FAMILY PLANNING AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS IN TANZANIA (1999, 40 pages in pdf).

links:

The Social Service’s Crisis of the 1990’s, Strategies for sustainable systems in Tanzania;

Media Materials Clearinghouse;

Empowering women, interventions. Gender sensitization, UMATI takes the lead;

PRIDE.

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