Emmanuel Cosmas Msoka is an 18-year-old young innovator, child rights and youth activist from Tanzania.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emmanuel designed a handwashing machine that enhanced hygiene to help reduce the spread of the virus. Read his blog for World Children's Day and discover other young leaders advocating for children's rights here.
"I was born at the foot of Africa’s highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the only place in my country where water turns to snow and ice. My name is Emmanuel Cosmas Msoka and I'm a UNICEF Tanzania Youth Advocate for water sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and innovation. I was lucky to be raised by both of my parents but grew up concerned about those who had none. Despite living in a poor family, I was devoted to sharing the little I had with those who were homeless and lived in marginalized communities.
I grew up with an urge to change the way things are done and to solve social problems and injustices. I’ve always been focused on children and youth since they make up the majority of victims of injustice, inequality and oppression. However, it came to my attention that most of them can’t speak up when they are faced with such circumstances.
Since then, my mission has been to build in children and youth the confidence to speak up for themselves and others. Since I was 14 years old, I’ve carried out lots of trainings, workshops and seminars for my fellow children and youth. Edwin and Irene are two of many children who have stepped out of the darkness and turned into candles lighting up their communities.
They both attended one of my SMILE workshops in my school. The workshop is focused on building self-confidence, innovation, creativity, leadership, sustainable development goals (SDGs) and entrepreneurship.
Edwin came in without a passion and walked out as a social activist realizing that we need to reach the SDGs if we want to see real change happening. When Irene joined, she was not sure she could lead, but after reshaping her thinking and building her self-confidence, she ran for ‘school head girl’, and you know what? She won!
Living in a society with lots of challenges that affect people and the environment which remain to be solved, I have learned to take the time to study a problem, identify available resources and come up with innovative solutions.
For me, being part of the solution is more motivating than seeing things be done by others. When COVID-19 hit Tanzania and my community struggled to combat the disease, I risked my life and stepped up. I went to my workshop and came up with an innovation: a handwashing machine that uses pedals to function, which eases handwashing and reduces the chances of spreading the virus. I’ve also taken time to train and motivate other young innovators, children and youth to lead on coming up with innovative solutions tackling problems in their communities. One of my mentees is Andrea, who has won several science contests with his innovations.
Stepping up when no one is ready to take the chance on leading has been my approach, and as a result, I’ve been able to hold roles in most of the influential social clubs, groups and organizations including the Children’s Junior Council, the Regional Scout Association, the World Literacy Foundation, the National Anti-Corruption Club, Changemakers Foundation and many more.
Through such institutions and having built myself by reading books and learning, I’ve always led with the values of creativity, integrity, teamwork, community service and responsibility.
Every journey has mountains and valleys, ups and downs. The same is true for my journey - more mountains than valleys, yet look at where I am today. I want the world to know that winning comes from multiple losses. In my early leadership journey at the age of 11, I ran twice in the school election and lost. I learned from my mistakes and took time to build myself. As a result, I became the Minister of Social Welfare in my school five years later. I got 88% of the votes out of 900+ students who voted in the election.
All child and youth champions across the world, those of you who are looking to make a better world for every child, here is my lesson: A lot is happening in our communities and a lot more is hidden in books that can be used to solve the challenges and problems in our communities.
Read books and you’ll be capable of making a lot more happen. Despite the challenges we are facing each day, learn to do things in a uniquely and creatively as you are working on the solutions. Think of them being innovative solutions. Keep in mind that bringing change is not limited to age and no idea is too small. Stay focused and let’s keep making the world a better place.