Okoa Maisha Ya Watoto (OMAWA)
Okoa Maisha Ya Watoto (OMAWA), ‘Save Children’s Lives’ in Swahili, is an NGO which was established by a group of teachers in 2010 in Shimbwe, rural Moshi, Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. OMAWA was established to support and advocate for the needs and rights of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in rural communities irrespective of age, sex, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, race, religion, political belief, disability, physical/mental health, socio-economic background, or any other aspect of their background or identity. As teachers, the founding members recognized that children were not attending school due to the fact that their basic needs were not being met, and they could not pay school fees, or buy school supplies.
The Organization’s main activity is to support OVC to attend school (primary, secondary and vocational training) with a particular focus on young girls. OMAWA also provides education on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and life skills to OVC, youth, caregivers, families, and the local community through monthly meetings and home visits that are facilitated by OMAWA peer educators.
In addition to the provision of material support, OMAWA provides psychosocial support (PSS) to promote children’s social, mental, and emotional wellbeing. At the same time, income-generating activities (IGAs) strengthen the capacity of caregivers, guardians, and families to care for OVC and ensure their economic wellbeing. The Organization also drills bore holes and wells; constructs toilets; develops rain water harvesting systems; installs hand-washing facilities; and conducts trainings on diseases associated with sanitation for school-going children through its Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme.
Through these various efforts, OMAWA has contributed to an increase in the enrolment of OVC in school; a reduction in the number of deaths of children under five-years of age; a reduction in the number of girls who drop out of school due to early pregnancy/marriage; increased access to clean water for school children and local communities; improved income for caregivers and families; and increased access to employment opportunities for young people. Additionally, OMAWA has helped reduce the spread of HIV, stigma, and discrimination among people and children living with HIV/AIDS.
Most of OMAWA’s activities are implemented in rural areas, and the Organization is currently active in 3 districts across 3 regions in mainland Tanzania. Activities are carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) of Tanzania, Rural District Authorities, Local Government Authorities (LGAs), local and international donors, NGOs, CBOs, public and private companies, public and private primary and secondary schools, and local communities.
Vision: A Tanzania in which every OVC attains the right to attend school at every level: primary, secondary, and vocational.
Mission: To support the education and skills of OVC and thereby create livelihood opportunities and reduce poverty in the rural districts of Tanzania.
Core Values: All of the activities of the Organization are undertaken with an eye to the following values: accountability, ambition, collaboration, creativity, and integrity.
Principles: The principles of participation, non-discrimination, transparency, a dynamic spirit, and advocacy form the operating standards of OMAWA and guide the actions of the organization.
OMAWA is organized into a Council and Board members. The Council is the governing body and includes the Executive Director, Programme Manager, Accountant and field workers, and it oversees day-to-day activities. The Board members (including teachers, farmers, and development/social workers) oversee policy, operations, and review financial reports. The Executive Director, Accountant, and Program Manager are full-time staff. The Executive Director, appointed by the Board members, represents the organization in all legal and contractual obligations.