Tansania: Christina Nsekela

The approach to population and development should be interdisciplinary. Learn people’s priorities and become their partners in development. That approach will promote a peaceful and hopeful future.

— Christina Nsekela

Christina Nsekela is the pioneering and now retired Chief Executive Director of Umati, the family planning association of Tanzania. When she started working with communities in the 1960’s, family planning was a taboo. Christina Nsekela initiated programs that have destigmatized family planning. Many agencies have adopted her initiatives, such as the teaching of family life education in schools by the Government of Tanzania. In retirement, the mother of two remains an active member of Umati and works with small and medium enterprise organizations in her rural home.

In the poor countryside of south western Tanzania, where Christina Nsekela was born in the late 1930s, many babies and small children died before reaching five years and women gave birth at home at the risk of dying during childbirth. Medical care, as well as safe and clean water, was not within easy reach. Christina Nsekela was concerned about the misery and could not forget it as she grew older. She moved to the capital, Dar es Salaam, to work as a teacher and social worker, for the Girl Guides Association of Tanzania. In 1969, she learned about the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (Fpat) and started to volunteer twice a week after her own office hours. “I appreciated the relevance of the programs in addressing some of the socioeconomic needs of our people. The experience triggered my interest and opened my eyes, so I willingly accepted the post Umati offered me,” she recalls. Umati is the better-known Kiswahili acronym for Fpat, namely Chama cha Uzazi na Malezi bora Tanzania. As the first employee and CEO of Umati in September 1969, she became the pioneer of the family planning revolution in Tanzania and East Africa. Her determination, endurance and hard work have destigmatized family planning, saved thousands of lives and steered the Tanzanian government to integrate family life education in the schools' curriculum. Even after her retirement in 1994, the widow and mother of two sons remains an active member of Umati and works with small and medium enterprise organizations in her rural home.

Family Planning Association of Tanzania (Umati) Tanzania Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Tango) Promotion of Rural Initiatives and Development Enterprises Tanzania (Pride)