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By the end of Malcolm X’s second trip to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, he said at a press conference, “In every country you go to, usually the degree of progress can never be separated from the woman. If you’re in a country that’s progressive, the woman is progressive. If you’re in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it’s because the woman is aware of the importance of education.

“But in every backward country you’ll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed it’s because the women don’t have education.

“So one of the things I became thoroughly convinced of in my recent travels is the importance of giving freedom to the women, giving her education, and giving her the incentive to get out there and put the same spirit and understanding in her children. And I am frankly proud of the contributions that our women have made in the struggle for freedom and I’m one person who’s for giving them all the leeway possible because they’ve made a greater contribution than many of us men.”

Malcolm X made that statement in 1964 following diplomatic missions to African and Arab countries, including to Tanzania. How is Tanzania doing today?

On June 22, 2017 Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli declared that all public schools must expel any girls who are pregnant. He offered this hopeful advice for post-delivery education, though: “they can learn sewing but they cannot go back to school.”

This is the same country in which men can legally marry girls as young as 14 and yet there is no sex education in schools. To have your own government steal your educational future, of course, is not just a tragic loss for any individual and her own children to build a life of their own making. But multiply that theft times thousands of people, and you fundamentally degrade your country’s path towards technological, economic, political, and social innovation and growth.

So who’s fighting this man-made disaster in Tanzania?

Enter Petrider Paul, who describes herself as “a Proud Feminist advocating to end of gender-based violence.” She’s a co-founder of Youth for Change Tanzania, a global partnership to end early forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

She’s worked with numerous organisations including Youth for Change, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Centre for Foreign Relations Tanzania. She’s launched an international petition campaign calling on the Tanzanian government to stop blocking sex education and stop expelling pregnant girls.

On November 22, 2017, Petrider Paul spoke with me by Skype from her home in Tanzania. We discussed:

  • The imbalance in punishment between the girls and the boys and men who impregnated them
  • What NGOs are doing about the absence of sex education in Tanzanian schools
  • The Tanzanian government’s propaganda campaign aimed at and against girls
  • The concerns of her peers and family about her safety while protesting a government that has jailed an opposition MP for speaking against this misogynist anti-education policy.

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