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Inspiration from the Back of Beyond: Interview with a Young Tanzanian Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by charlton c tsodzo, Zimbabwe Mar 31, 2005
Child & Youth Rights   Opinions
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Inspiration from the Back of Beyond: Interview with a Young Tanzanian Robert Browning once said “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Here is a young man, who has not only defied the odds but has become an inspiration in a land in where he could use some inspiration himself.

Hailing from The United Republic of Tanzania, one of the coterie of poor countries in the developing world with the lowest levels of human development (as measured by the human development index), this young man has soared above the wind and carved his own niche, much to the inspiration of other young Africans who by now should realise that geography or circumstance has got absolutely nothing to do with destiny.

Please meet Leonard Boniface, a 26-year-old young man living in Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, where he practices freelance journalism and is also an activist on HIV and AIDS. Leonard has truly done well as an ambassador for young people of his region to say the least. His passion for HIV and AIDS activism has seen him expend his potential beyond his borders and trot around the globe in what seems to be fast evolving into a career in development advocacy.

As to why he decided to be an activist around Millennium Development Goal 6 he says, “I realised how the HIV and ADIS pandemic was debilitating various socio-economic facets of my society, so as a young person I decided to take it upon myself to promote sustainable behaviour change among my peers.”

The year 2003 saw him attend the World Youth Congress in Casablanca, Morocco, where as a writer par excellence, he was selected to join the editorial team for the Congress. In that capacity he was part of the team that produced the post-Congress report, which covered HIV and AIDS and human rights (Target 2015). He also attended the Student of Sustainability 2004 International Conference in Melbourne Australia at Latrobe University, the same year in which he also attended the Oxfam International Youth Parliament 2004 in Sydney, which he acknowledges was indeed a great platform for exposure to global events for him.

“My attending of the youth meetings indeed exposed me to new knowledge and experiences on advocacy strategies for youth participation in development issues, particularly in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) process.”

The fall of 2004 once again saw him attending the International Youth Conference on Humanism held in Kampala Uganda where he ran a workshop on HIV and AIDS. Currently, he serves as an Oxfam International Youth Parliament Action Partner for 2004-2006. To him, this platform is a continued opportunity to share knowledge and best practices with fellow young people on how the youth could best position themselves with regards to the global development agenda.

If it’s true that ‘charity begins at home,’ Leonard did not just wake up participating in international youth development activities. He has also been deeply involved with youth activities in his own country, Tanzania, through the Teenage Life Programme, a project whose brainchild was his to deal with HIV and AIDS, behaviour change as well as to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through information dissemination to the youth.

“I founded the Teenage Life programme in 2000 to spread the word to the youth, about how to deal with problems that are facing young people. The project specifically targets the youth on issues of prostitution, rape, drug abuse, drunkenness and robbery, factors playing a significant role in the spread of HIV and AIDS in Tanzania,” pointed out Leonard during the interview.

“I also took from my comparative advantage as a media person to promote the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) among young people through information dissemination,” he continued.

With a passion for research he conducted a research project in 2002 on the "Impact of Mass Media in Combating HIV and AIDS in Youth in Botswana compared to Tanzania” which was coupled with a video documentary. He has also been involved with the International students Week in Tanzania, and has presented a paper at the University of Dar Es Salaam on the HIV and AIDS situation in the country. The year 2003 saw this inspiring young man addressing the Tanzanian Parliament through its AIDS Coalition Committee (TAPAC) in Dodoma, Tanzania on new strategies regarding the youth in combating HIV and AIDS. “These were all perfect opportunities for me to bring out the youth voice on what the pandemic was doing to our society,” he remarked.

Wait a minute, did I hear someone say “Is that all he can do?” If that wasn’t enough, Leonard has gone on to record a song on the MDGs and HIV and AIDS and is currently in processing of making a video documentary titled, “HIV and AIDS and its Impact on Tanzanian Young People.” Leonard is still soliciting for support to host the “Tanzania AIDS Fighters Award" event this year which would be aimed at honouring individuals within Tanzania and beyond who would have shown a high degree of commitment in combating HIV and AIDS.

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