by Raphael Dennis
I am part of the #Citizens4Change team and for the past 4 months we have been visiting multiple wards across Tanzania to identify new members for our community. In that time, I have discovered that there are already many people taking positive actions to protect children and young people.
In comparison to a few years ago, I believe more people are aware of what child abuse is and importantly many understand the impact it can have. A positive action, is that people are beginning to identify child abuse, spotting the signs of it, and feel a responsibility to do something as a citizen in their community. It seems the most common action that many citizens would take after identifying abuse is reporting to local government officials. This is an important step, however very few then see it as their responsibility to follow that report up. This is a concern as sadly, there is often a lack of urgency in local government, as well as prolonged procedures of authorities in responding to the reported cases.
On our visit to Baraa Ward we did meet one courageous individual who followed up on the case she had reported until justice is obtained for the child. This individual, who has now joined #Citizens4Change, identified that a child was employed to do domestic works in her neighbourhood. She acted by first obtaining the details from the child’s friend. She discovered that the girl was taken from another region and brought to Arusha by a relative who promised to send her to school while in Arusha: something that never happened and instead she remained as the house worker. So, our inspiring C4C reported this to the Local Government Authority who seemed too slow to respond. She then escalated the case by reporting it to the police. Gladly at this point the issue was treated with the seriousness it deserved. As a result of these actions, and the citizens persistence, the child has been reunified back to her family back in Mwanza for schooling. Appropriate legal actions were taken against the relative who engaged this girl in child labor.
A further pleasing positive action we are seeing is families living with children of their relatives, when the biological parents cannot care for their child. This gives a ray of hope in the move away from institutional care, which is often of a poor standard and does not provide the love, security and safety of a family home.
Many individuals talk of actions they take on their own to protect children and young people, such as ensuring that their children go to school, get back on time, get good nutrition or play in safe spaces but we have only heard of a few ‘collective’ positive actions. One included the Bodaboda Gang in Ngaramtoni who help children cross the roads safely to get to and from school. Another collective action was a group of neighbors who had created a collective of trusted carers who would look after each other’s children whilst parents work. Through our work with new #Citizens4Change we hope to encourage more collective actions as these can be the most powerful.