The Happy and Sad Box Initiative at Sema in Tanzania

Last updated 6 years ago

In order to raise confident children with bright futures, giving them their basic needs is not enough, they also need to exercise their right to express themselves and be heard just like every other person. In most cases, children are not given this kind of freedom but are instead ordered around and their thoughts and opinions are not listened to.

It is for this matter, after much groundwork that we proposed the Happy and Sad Opinion Box initiative (H&S boxes). This initiative was something we had initially learnt about and were eager to implement mainly because it invited children to freely write their concerns and express why they are happy or sad.

Findings from a 2009 survey on Violence Against Children (VAC) revealed a magnitude of sexual violence experienced in childhood. Nearly three out of every 10 females aged between 13 and 24 reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence before turning 18 which birthed this initiative that aims at promoting child participation, besides providing an avenue for abuse reporting and also linking children and caregivers with frontline child protection services.

The study was coordinated and funded by the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Tanzania with technical guidance and assistance provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention, and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS). It was guided by a Multi-Sectoral Task Force (MSTF) consisting of government ministries and partners from social welfare, the police and legal system, education and healthcare sectors, the United Nations and civil society. 

More findings from this study showed that almost three-quarters of both females and males have reported experiencing physical violence by a relative, authority figures such as teachers, or an intimate partner prior to the age of 18.

In view of this, we took on the H&S box initiative and made it into a feasible Programme that would give children a platform to either report or share their happy or sad moments without fear of being reprimanded by the people they ought to trust.

We initially orchestrated a pilot project in Temeke Municipality and within its first year, received a total of 582 happy opinions and 441 sad ones. The initiative has been a success with almost 30 schools in the Temeke District having adopted it. And plans have been underway to scale up the initiative countrywide. With our collaboration the H&S boxes are currently implemented by the Temeke Municipal Child Protection Team.

Tandika’s Ward Education Officer, Beatrice Nyange has spoken positively on this initiative and how well it has been received by the government after playing a major role in unearthing major challenges faced by children in schools and home.

It is only right to say after extensive research, Happy & Sad boxes are a resource that needs to be utilized in our country, not only for our children’s sake but for ourselves as well. For us to raise children that are aware and studious in who they are we first have to understand the individuals they are now. Knowing what makes them happy and what makes them sad is a good place to start.

This story was compiled by H&S Boxes project team and written by C-Sema’s Media Team.