Global Partners, September 2023

Written by Lee S. Polansky, Senior Director of Executive Initiatives and Special Projects | Published: September 11, 2023

Awakening Horn for Inclusive Rural Development (AHIRD)

Awakening Horn for Inclusive Rural Development (AHIRD) was founded in 2020 by a group of five young Tanzanians who experienced hardship and injustice while growing up and decided to join hands to fight harmful social-cultural practices, beliefs, and traditions that violate the rights of women and young people.

We connected with AHIRD through Melvine Ouyo, who is the Executive Director of Hope for Kenya Slum Adolescents Initiative (HKSAI) and a Population Connection board member. Melvine met the organization’s Director, William Johnson, and said she was “inspired by his commitment to, and AHIRD’s focus on, women’s empowerment despite the challenges the organization faced.” AHIRD works with women, adolescents, and children to empower them to make healthy decisions and to help raise their living standards through education and vocational training. The organization also provides advocacy training and mentorship to men and boys to help them take the lead in challenging toxic masculinity and patriarchal norms in their rural communities. William says AHIRD emphasizes educating poor and rural women, girls, and boys on “sexual and reproductive health and rights; gender-based violence; and girls’ bodily autonomy … to improve their lives and achieve their fullest potential in all aspects of life.”

William and two AHIRD staff members presenting the Her Right to Decide for Her Future program at Kiswaga Secondary School. Photo by AHIRD.

Thanks to member donations specifically earmarked for international support, Population Connection helps to fund AHIRD’s program Her Right to Decide for Her Future, which works mainly with girls and boys of secondary school age who live in the Magu District of the Mwanza Region in Tanzania. This program educates participants about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), with the hope that they make positive, thoughtful decisions about their health and their futures.

Women learning to sew at the Mwangaza training center. Photo by AHIRD.

Ongoing AHIRD activities include supporting and mentoring 50 marginalized and vulnerable girls in Tanzania’s Sanjo Division; distributing bicycles to girls who lack transportation to get to school; and teaching secondary school age girls and boys about SRHR through capacity-building activities.

Secondary school girls who received bikes from AHIRD to make their travel to and from school easier. Photo by AHIRD.

AHIRD has serious challenges—mainly underfunding and understaffing—but the organization continues to work to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable women, adolescents, and children living in rural areas in Tanzania. AHIRD strives to “ensure every rural young woman and adolescent girl can exercise her sexual and reproductive health and rights” and to “free vulnerable women, young girls, and children from living in systemic poverty by continuing to sponsor access to education; fight for gender equality; and advocate for rights and empowerment of women, girls, and boys.”

AHIRD girls’ education sponsorship beneficiaries at Bujashi Secondary School. Photo by AHIRD.

It has been an honor to help AHIRD. Melvine was right to be impressed when she first met William and heard him say that seeing women and girls languish in poverty inspired him and his founding partners to start his work on SRHR.

“We believe partnering with Population Connection is one of the biggest steps in making our plans happen, and we are thankful for this opportunity.”
–William Johnson

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