This case study utilized qualitative and quantitative methods to examine how gender, power and HIV/AIDS merge to create situations of risk and vulnerability for young people in the Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. Questionnaires were collected from 160 secondary school students, while qualitative data came from 3 focus group discussions (one mixed and two single sex), interviews with one male and one female parent, one male and one female teacher, and an educational representative, in addition to observation. By looking at the socially constructed and multifaceted nature of gender and its inherent connection to power, this study highlights the contradictory and confusing state young people find themselves in nowadays. Particularly in regards to gender norms, roles and expectations, this study found that the school appears to be a modernizing influence, more overtly oriented towards gender equality in comparison to other facets of society such as the home and the work place, where inequality is still pervasive. Yet even there, it becomes obvious that changing long held beliefs concerning the roles, abilities, and characteristics of girls and boys takes considerable amounts of time. Gender inequality and entrenched power structures creep insidiously even into schools, which are supposed to be the levelers of difference.
The push and pull factors at work in Kilimanjaro are also evident considering the plethora of sources of information concerning sexuality, gender, condoms and HIV/AIDS that shape young people’s attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Competing “moral regimes” and the subsequent incongruence and ambiguity of messages emanating from the mass media, religious institutions, parents, peers and teachers undermine any prevention program and have clear implications for HIV/AIDS program planners attempting to design and implement contextually sensitive school-based programs based on a coherent, unified stance. Thus, the importance of context and change were recurring themes in the study as having relevance for HIV/AIDS programming. Most strikingly, the need for a forum where young people can openly articulate their concerns, fears, questions and desires as well as address the ambiguities and contradictions in their lives emerged as having importance for programming.