Hey UTSC! My name is Maleeha Shams and I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto; I am pursuing a double major in International Development Studies and Health Studies. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a 2019-2020 QE Scholar and for my internship, I went to a city called Arusha in Tanzania. During the summer of 2019, I took on the role of a Youth Engagement Officer for the Jitegemee Vijana Tanzania (JIVITA) Foundation, a youth-oriented NGO that focused on youth empowerment and youth entrepreneurship in Arusha and surrounding regions. Within this role, I had the chance to support JIVITA in establishing their Gender Equality and Youth Policies to have clarity for their objectives going forward and interact with their beneficiaries to understand the needs they would like addressed by JIVITA. I also was able to visit many secondary schools in Arusha nearby regions to donate menstrual hygiene products to young girls who are not able to afford them. These visits were so powerful for me as JIVITA emphasized the importance of breaking down the stigma towards discussing menstrual health and they advocated for affordable and accessible menstrual hygiene products for the female youth of Tanzania. My most memorable moment of my internship was when I was able to work with the WUSC Tanzania’s Gender Advisor to facilitate a sexual harassment training session for the staff and volunteers of JIVITA Foundation. We focused on the context of Tanzania to signify the importance of having a Sexual Harassment policy in place at JIVITA Foundation and strove to teach the staff and volunteers how to cultivate a safe and respectful workplace. Throughout my whole time at JIVITA Foundation, I was inspired by the resilience, perseverance and creativity of the youth, my coworkers, and the in-country WUSC team, it was an amazing learning experience.
I am humbled to be given this amazing opportunity and am very grateful towards the QE II Scholarship Program, the Centre of Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Uniterra Students Without Borders program for making this possible. All the support that was given to me by the University and WUSC made my transition before, during, and after my internship much easier.
This experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime and taught me many invaluable things about international development, international volunteering experiences and myself as an individual. I had a blast volunteering in Arusha and traveling Tanzania as much as I could over the summer! Follow me on Instagram: @maleeha_in_tanzania and on Twitter: @maleehashams to see all the things I did while I was there.