Engaging communities to prevent violence against women and children in Tanzania

UNESCO Dar es Salaam in partnership with UN WOMEN and Sengerema local government on 25th November 2020 commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Sengerema district. The event, that also marked the commencement of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, was intended to raise awareness on violence against women and girls at school and community levels and to mobilize communities to promote girls’ retention and ensure protection from all forms of violence.

Two key activities were carried out – A live radio programme through Sengerema FM and a socio-cultural dialogue. The radio programme engaged government officers and police gender desk officers who deal with violence cases in the district while the socio-cultural dialogue engaged parents (men and women), government officials, teachers, Safe Space – TUSEME club students, police gender desk, social protection committees, youth and media. Discussions focused on violence against girls and women and its impact in achieving education outcomes and the role of communities in girls’ education.

During the dialogue, the Safe Space – TUSEME youth club members in Sengerema delivered a message to the communities, through drama performances, to stop violence against women and children. They raised issues such as sexual harassment, corporal punishment and heavy domestic chores preventing them from attaining their education goals.

According to the Tanzania Demographic Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey (2015-16), the Lake Zone, where Sengerema is located, has higher violence prevalence compared to the rest of Tanzania Mainland. For instance, spouse violence ranges at 78% in both Mara and Shinyanga, and 60% in Mwanza regions while in Pemba/Zanzibar’s prevalence rate is between 8% and 9%. This calls for more continued support and action to reduce violence against women cases in the Lake Zone and in the country as a whole. Millions of women and girls are being affected by various violence acts in form of physical, sexual, psychological, as well as economic abuse and exploitation regardless of age, background, or level of education.

The event was graced by Mr. Tirso Dos Santos, the UNESCO Head of Office and Representative, UNWOMEN representatives and the Sengerema District Officials. In his opening remarks, Mr. Dos Santos shared the status of gender-based violence in the region and called for concerted efforts to eliminate it.

The Acting Sengerema District Executive Director expressed commitment to support efforts to eliminate violence against children, girls and women. Further, he commended UNESCO’s work with community radios in sensitizing the public on the effects of violence against women and facilitating dialogues on ways to eliminate the vice. He further stated that, according to district violence statistics (2019/2020) a total of 692 incidents of violence were reported of which 320 cases were violence against adults (74 male cases and 246 female cases) and 372 cases are related to child abuse where 140 were for boys and 232 were for girls.

The event, that drew about 600 people, including community members, the trained protection committees, parents, teachers and students, was organized as part of the UN Joint initiative between UNESCO, UNFPA and UN Women, Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Education with financial support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Launched in 2015, the project applies a collaborative and multi-sectoral approach to support girls’ and women’s right to quality education in Tanzania.