Humans are social beings and our decisions about how to behave are often based on what we believe others in our society would do, and particularly based on the approval of people whose opinions matters to us.
A social norm is a thing that is commonly done in a particular situation. It is the accepted behaviour that an individual is expected to conform to in a group, community, or culture. These norms have great influence on how people behave.
At Citizens4Change, we know through our research and history working in Tanzania, that treating children punitively (punishing them, often with violence) is a social norm. However, we also know that there are many Tanzanians who take action to protect children.
However, many Tanzanian’s take action to protect children as a result of their own ethical convictions. These behaviours are not dependent on social considerations. People who possess this ‘moral norm’ can be described as having the Ujasiri mindset, which literally translates to bravery. This mindset is driven by a deep empathy and compassion in the face of a child’s suffering. They take brave and courageous actions, disregarding society’s approval or disapproval. They do so, however, knowing that there may be a personal cost to them. Thus, it is not a social norm to protect children in Tanzania yet.
What are protective actions? Visit our Inspiration page to learn more.
Despite a community of people across Tanzania taking action to protect children, and our belief that the Ujasiri mindset is common, there remains blockers to this behaviour becoming a ‘social norm’. These include the concealment of abuse to protect adults; the slow and often ineffective response of the authorities to reports of violence; and the subsequent disillusion of citizens with the system and its ability to protect them and their children.
By establishing Citizens4Change, a growing community of individuals who protect children and celebrate protectors and their actions, we hope to reach a tipping point in East Africa whereby protective norms are transmitted and adopted, widening the circle of care for children. We hope the growing voice of protectors will also prompt needed changes from authorities and the systems which should be ensuring the safety and well-being of Tanzania’s and all of East Africa’s children.
Our aim is to target and mobilize one million Citizens4Change by the end of 2023. If you already take action to protect children, join our community today.