Tansania: Neema Mgana

I think that obstacles represent hidden opportunities. They make one think and act differently – often transforming our lives for the better.”

— Neema Mgana

Neema Mgana (29) is a young African activist who promotes social and political change. As an undergraduate student, she co-founded an Aids organization to serve children affected with HIV/Aids in Tanzania. In 2002 she founded the African Regional Youth Initiative (Aryi), an organization that mobilizes youth and community-based organizations all over Africa on social and economic issues. She is also the Co-Executive Director of the International Council for Global Initiatives.

Neema describes her parents as exemplary role models: “They would tell me when I was young that educating girls was the landmark for social and economic development." While doing her internship in a large hospital in Tanzania, Neema Mgana became aware of acute pain and sorrow. She recalls the moment that prompted her to action: “I realized that we are all responsible for alleviating such pain”. She researched and decided that she could do something. In December 2002 she founded the Aryi: “Aryi works with entire communities. The majority of the people leading activities and programs within the organization are under 30 years; this is really energizing,” she points out. Aryi addresses HIV/Aids in a comprehensive way: it works on issues around youth, girls and women, and on community development programs. “There was no platform, no vehicle for young people and those at the community level to work and voice our opinions and concerns in a united manner. That is the overall goal of Aryi,” she explains. In 2005, together with a colleague, Neema started to develop a second organization: the International Council for Global Initiatives. “We want to scale up successful models from the community and regional levels, like Aryi, and bring them to the global arena and support cross-regional learning and exchanges. In my opinion it is this cross-cultural collaboration that has lacked in development work.” Neema holds a diploma in health sciences, certificates in international peace studies and humanitarian assistance, a BSc degree in health informatics and a master’s degree in international health.

African Regional Youth Initiative (Aryi) International Council for Global Initiatives