YCI’s long-time partner in Zanzibar, the Zanzibar NGO Cluster for HIV/AIDS (ZANGOC), has been working to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Zanzibar’s communities since 1996. Overseeing and coordinating the work of 45 community-based and faith-based organizations across the archipelago as well as providing testing and counseling services to the community, no single civil society organization has done as much as ZANGOC to fight against the epidemic on the islands. However, one glaring gap has existed at ZANGOC for years: no clear strategy on gender issues in their programming, including no plans to address gender-specific barriers related to testing and treatment among female community members and a lack of women in major leadership positions at ZANGOC.
Ziredi Abdul Karim Msanik has sought to remedy this issue. Last year, the 25-year-old member of ZANGOC’s Executive Committee teamed up with YCI to launch ZANGOC’s Gender Equality Team (GET). The primary goal of the team when it was established was to ‘mainstream’ gender into all of ZANGOC’s members’ activities, making gender considerations a central component in the planning and implementing of all of the activities ZANGOC and its members carry out in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
When asked about the partnership with YCI, Ziredi is quick to comment that “YCI has really helped ZANGOC”, citing examples of gender projects which the two organizations have championed together, but also more general capacity-building efforts among ZANGOC’s member organizations. As for her own development, she adds, “YCI has built me up to who I am today…being a leader”.
And a leader she is, indeed. This year alone, with YCI’s support, Ziredi has carried out a gender audit of ZANGOC’s member organizations. In order to identify the specific needs of each NGO, she organized an intensive five-day gender mainstreaming training for GET’s members and partners, and has overseen the development of ZANGOC’s new Gender Policy, presently being reviewed by the Executive Committee.
Following her studies in law at Zanzibar University, Ziredi says that she hope to “use [her] skills to advocate for gender issues [and] human rights issues…Even though the situation is not that easy, I believe that it will reach a time when Zanzibar will change when it comes to gender issues. We will see gender issues as the main priority.”
-Ben Verboom, Health Policy Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Tanzania 2012