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  • Context

    We live in a rapidly changing world – some changes may be for the better – others not so much. In order to continue to ground Voice in local lived realities, a country context analysis is organised every other year, engaging many stakeholders, grantees and rightsholders.  The analysis is used to frame Calls for Proposals, to support the applications of grant-seekers and to advance the overall learnings .Below follows a summary of the exercise conducted in 2020, capturing the many views and perspectives of Tanzanians. The summary is structured by presenting the big picture and slowly but surely to zoom in on the voices and aspirations of the rightsholders and to zoom out again by sharing the way forward for Voice. This page can also be downloaded at the bottom of the page. In Tanzania, there have been significant changes especially on an evolving political context and increased control by the state, the Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) and its potential impact on economic exclusion among rightsholder groups, enactment of draconian laws that restrict peoples’ freedom and access to information and justice. A full report and previous versions can be availed to you upon request. Please contact Tanzania@voice.global

    Zooming out

    The big picture

    • The Human Development Index is an index that combines data on life expectancy, education, and per capita income to rank countries. In Tanzania, the  HDI ranking has gone down from 151 in 2015 to 159 in 2019, despite the economic growth.
    • The IHDI measures the human development cost of inequality, or the overall loss to human development due to inequality. The closer to 1 the more equal a society is. The IHDI can inform policies towards inequality reduction. In Tanzania the Index has not changed much, highlighting the need to meet the needs of individuals are still hard.
    • The GII is an inequality index, measuring the human development costs of gender inequality economically, health- and education-wise. The closer to 0 the better. In Tanzania gender equality has not advanced much and the numbers don't capture the growing numbers of Gender-Based Violence.
    • According to the independent Civicus Monitor which started in 2016, civic space has been in decline over the last few years, and for some groups even faster than for others. In 2020 Civicus put Tanzania on a watch list for increased scrutiny. 

    Behind the numbers

    The overall picture of Tanzania is a gloomy one. The economic growth has not translated into better standards of living for the average Tanzanian, and certainly not for the Voice rightsholders already living in the margins of society. On the contrary, inequality is growing, as is gender inequality while civic space is getting more repressed. For ethnic and gender minorities the impact has been particularly tough. There are no formal policies to protect the ethnic and indigenous groups who are faced with constant battles for their land, poorly paid wages and also insecurity due to exposure of state and non-state attacks. Gender minorities voices are curtailed due to laws such as the anti-homosexuality law that limit their freedom to live, access services and express.   The Gender Inequality index continues to grow as the country is yet to embrace female leaders holding political positions with institutional patriarchy still being the norm.    With the introduction of several Bills affecting the shrinking democratic space negatively, will the elections scheduled for October 2020 be the beginning of change?

    Political shifts

    The rights of the rightsholders to political participation and engagement on civic matters (right to vote, elect and be elected) and opportunity to challenge the status quo were taken away. Since the start of tenure in 2015, the current regime has implemented restrictions on fundamental freedoms. We witnessed local government elections in November 2019 boycotted by major opposition parties. The ban on political rallies shows the growing oppression of the opposition.  This comes in the wake of a civil society outcry about the deterioration of human rights, including the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly in Tanzania. The shutdown of more than a dozen media outlets and the arrest of journalists have gained both international and domestic attention. It is under this context where Voice in Tanzania framed the 2019 Calls for Proposals around ‘Freedoms – Reinventing UhuruMtandao HuruSauti yangu Uhuru Wetu’ and only one impact theme ‘increased political participation and citizen engagement

    Economic shifts

    Tanzania has become one of the best performing economies in East Africa as reflected in some improved indicators in the Human Development Index and recent promotion to the status of a lower-middle-income economy. However, inequalities and economic exclusion persist mostly among women, the elderly and sexual and gender minority groups. Unemployment rates among women in the workforce are higher than those of men in all areas and most significant in major towns and cities including the capital Dar es Salaam. Small and micro-enterprises, dominated mainly by women and young people, are not registered with a Taxpayer Identification Number and are therefore ineligible to obtain formal credit.

    Social shifts

    The key significant shift, also exacerbated by Covid-19, is the high rates of domestic and intimate partner violence against women. More than 88,612 Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases were recorded by the police between July 2017 and June 2019, with a total of 3,709 incidents of rape.  A report by the Legal and Human Rights Centre 2019 documented 14 incidences of women involved in physical violence, 12 were killed, and out of 12, 8 cases involved the killing of women by their spouse.

    (Invisible) power shifts

    In Tanzania, the visible shifts have occurred in the form of changes in the legal framework while invisible changes have occurred in the form of changes in practices both by the government and rightsholder groups. The government has been adopting and enacting restrictive and repressive laws to have ultimate control over NGOs, political parties and activists. The outcome has been arbitrary deregistration of NGOs, harassment and arrests of activists and CSO workers. Regardless of the repressive laws and declining civic space, many civil society organisations including Voice rightsholder groups’ report to have better access to and relations with their most relevant government officials. However, the backlash against the LGBTI community is expected to have a long-term impact followed by several anti-LGBTI crackdowns in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.


    Tanzania’s response to the pandemic has been criticised by the international community, with the government openly stating that its primary concern is to protect the economy. Its actions have included cancelling press briefings on the status of the pandemic in the country, actively encouraging activities which are counter to recommendations on social distancing (such as national prayer days) and actively encouraging businesses to continue operating as normal, promoting untested “cures” among other measures.

    Zooming in

    Voices behind the picture

    Employment and income generation remain to be key issues for young Tanzanians. Enactment of repressive laws that curtail media freedom, especially new media, has affected youth involvement in the creative industry as well as their political engagement. Tanzania’s urban population is skewed towards youth, due to rural-urban migration of young job seekers, while the rural population is thus more skewed towards the elderly. The high population of elderly in rural areas are prone to physical disability, potentially as a result of the violence associated with elders practicing witchcraft. Their access to basic services, such as healthcare, is also limited. Disability is more prevalent with age so in many cases the challenges that the elderly face (such as lack of access to adequate medical facilities) or conversely the challenges that young women face (lack of access to sanitation) are compounded by disability. People with Disabilitirs are not a homogeneous group and experience a lot of cross-cutting challenges. However, poor enforcement and lack of awareness of key legislation put in place, which protect the right of People with DIsabilities remain a challenge. The indigenous groups/ ethnic minorities also continue to face similar challenges in pursuing their interests within the context of a shrinking civil society space. They face challenges such as land-grabbing, land conflicts, violations of human rights, gender-based violence as well as food insecurity. The latter is caused as a result of a prolonged fight between pastoralists and farmers based in rural areas. Additionally, indigenous people particularly pastoralists have found themselves, victims of land grabs, by farmers (allied to local government authorities) or investors in the tourism industry. Women in these communities bear the brunt. They continue to face multiple threats, including early child marriage, Gender-Based Violence and Female Genital Mutliation. The exploitation, violence and abuse that women face in Tanzania can partly be attributed to the lack of enforcement of key legislation, including the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA), 1998 as well as the Marriage Act, 1971.

    “Through Voice support, we were able to finalise the work we were doing to get the Marriage Act to be changed. We got the decision in our favour which declared the marriage of girls as young as 14 unconstitutional.”        Msichana Initiative

    Moreover, 2020 being an election year, violence against women is manifesting in several ways that may affect women’s access to power. At the same time, public utterances by politicians and different leaders directly targeting LGBTI people has seen rising violence meted on them. As a result, LGBTI people are unable to access justice or protection from the police who also target them with violence. With the current hostile environment, the LGBTI community has gone further into hiding with health and psychosocial issues such as HIV/AIDS and self -stigmatisation remaining unaddressed.

    “They are not accepted by their communities. They are not accepted as being human. Their levels of access to basic services are restricted by homophobia… We have been able to document human rights violations [against LGBTI people]. We have documented over 250 cases of physical violence in the last 3 years.” Confidential

    Their aspirations 

    Despite the significant challenges that CSOs and NGOs face in Tanzania, the majority of Voice in Tanzania grantees remain optimistic.  This means continued lobbying and advocacy for legislation/policy reform to recognise issues of indigenous people’s rights, remains a priority. This would require adopting a litigation strategy on repressive laws on land-grabbing issues affecting this community. The youth’s quest is for improved job creation in the informal sector, as well as inclusive financial services. Additionally, they aspire for an inclusive education among young girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy. Civic engagement and participation in political processes should not be debatable. The same goes for enhanced economic and political empowerment for women. To continue engaging women and young people in empowering processes of their rights to justice, and to better deal with the increased gender-based violence. For the vulnerable elderly people, they desire improved livelihood and access to free medical care, as well as pension schemes. Additionally, protection and an end to killings/abuse related to witchcraft beliefs. LGBTI people wish to hold the Ministry of Health accountable for the provision of health service for all as per Tanzania policies. They would like to have interventions in place that aim to improve their economic wellbeing as well as mental health.  There is a lack of accurate data on people with disabilities, the elderly, ethnic minorities and intersex groups that affect the ability to design strategic interventions. These accurate data however always need to be secured so not to fall into the wrong hands leading to potential damage to rightsholders. Partners expressed a need to grow their understanding of how to gather, analyse, and package data securely.

    Zooming out

    Fostering change

    The current legal and political environment means that NGOs and CSOs in Tanzania are much less willing to take risks and to innovate out of fear that they might face deregistration. As a result, these organisations are much less willing to work with or be associated with rightsholder groups that the government has an extreme disliking for (such as LGBTI groups and opposition political parties).  Despite this, some grantee organisations have had to innovate in order to survive. This implies resilience within the grantees, signifying that they are still determined to succeed. The Voice programme in Tanzania aims to support and motivate grantees beyond grant funding, with measures that will continue to strengthen their resilience and innovativeness to respond to the shifting landscape. As informed by the 2020 context analysis report, the objectives for the extension phase areas are outlined below, which also mirror rightsholders aspirations. 

    • To promote access to resource ownership among women and their political engagement, as well as strengthening their leadership skills. This is especially for young indigenous women, and those with disabilities;
    • To lobby for policies that protect the right of choice for women to safe health and young girls access to education, free from child marriage;
    • To promote access to employment opportunities among young people in rural areas, women and people with disabilities, gender minorities, in particular when identities intersect;
    • To promote access to health services as well as mental health among gender minorities;
    • To influence policies changes and/or reforms by building collaborative resilience with other allies in the region pegged on international laws. Partners within the country can use this strategy to put pressure on the current restrictive laws that are violations of human rights.

    The forthcoming Calls for Proposals will be based on these priorities -although other new ones may come up that require further attention.  

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Voice Tanzania Hivos East Africa Local Office P.O. Box 38266 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Tel: +255 266 4301 / 4 Fax: +255 266 4308 tanzania@voice.global


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