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Human rights in Tanzania

For the last five years, Concern Tanzania has been implementing a programme focusing on food and land rights. And I recently discovered that not only the poor communities are benefitting.

I’ve been travelling to areas where Concern works, interviewing citizens, staff members and partners who received training in issues relating to human rights. They told me that this training has given them a new perspective both professionally and personally.   

Equal access

Stanfford Mwakyusa, a programme officer in Iringa, told me that in his culture there’s a belief that women shouldn’t get equal access to resources. Since the training, his perspective has changed:

[Now] my wife and I control everything together. Because of the knowledge I have gained on land rights, the plot of land we have here is in my wife and children’s name, not mine.

I want to make sure that they will be secure if I die; and that nobody can take it away from them. It is common practice in Tanzania for the women to be left with little rights to resources when the husband dies.

Empowerment

Mtaki Augustine, a programme officer in Mtwara, says: 

People believe that empowerment of others will cause them to lose their own power, but I don’t believe this. Because with equal resources and sharing, it means you have empowered each other, and then you can talk and discuss together for the benefit of the household.  

Rights of all people

The benefits of human rights training even extend into the realm of politics. An ex-district commissioner told me he’s happy to see more seats than ever being occupied by the opposition party in his district council. This is despite the fact that he’s a member of the ruling party.

He says his friends joke and blame him for the rise in opposition seats. But he says:

It is about democracy, not which party I am from. It is my duty to tell people about the process and their rights, whoever they are. I now have more knowledge on the rights of all people, and I will encourage them to speak out.

Benefitting everyone

What I learned from speaking with these men is that, though the ultimate target group are the poorest people, knowledge of human rights can benefit everyone.