CST: provide equal treatment to all children



The community has been advised to give equal treatment to all children, regardless of their physical or disability status. The Child Support Tanzania (CST) Project Coordinator, Mr. Omoding James, gave the advice when discussing the work that CST is doing in Mbeya Region.

CST is based in Mbeya. It implements the Take all My Friends to School Project. The project focuses on supporting children with disability to access education.

James says CST works hand in hand with the community in order to provide schooling opportunity for children with disabilities. The project is funded by the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS). They have managed to increase community awareness on rights for children with disability.

“Some school authorities have begun to change their attitude. They have realized the need to support children with disability. For instance, at Juhudi Primary School, they have built ramps in some classrooms so as to support children with disability. Prior to the implementation of this project, there was no smooth passage to classrooms for children with disability at Iwambi. This is no longer the case. We have increased the number of children with disabilities from 62 to 78 in six schools. Currently the Government, through the Local Government Authority, is supporting programs aimed at assisting children with disability,” he says.

James says prior to the implementing of the project, CST observed that some parents could not afford to take their disabled children  to school due to snags caused by distance and financial considerations. He also observed that some nearby schools did not neither had the capacity nor the teaching tools for accommodating and teaching children with disabilities. As a result, the children stayed home without going to school.

According to James, CST has supported the community to recognize the social and economic impact of stigma on children with disabilities. They have organized seminars for family members, teachers and government officials on facilitating equal and better treatment for children with disabilities.

“Our society must accept change and abandon discriminatory traditions, customs and taboos that stigmatize children with disabilities,” James says and adds, “Stigma has a direct link to poverty, especially in families with children with disabilities.”

 He says that they have seen some parents, and in most cases men, abandon their families simply because their wives have given birth to children with disabilities. He added that there in some cases children with disabilities have been segregated and unequally treated by their own families. He says that once men abandon their families once their spouses give birth to disabled children; it creates a difficult environment for women to manage their day to day lives.

 “Take the example of a mother out there who has failed to go to her farm due to the duty of taking care of her disabled child. When others are producing, she is at home. When her fellow villagers are harvesting, she has nothing to harvest. In the end, her family lives in extreme poverty,” he says.

 “There are many disabled children in this community. Once these are left to interact only with their family members, it limits them the time to engage in economic activities. We need to engage the entire community to support children with disabilities,” he says.

The Regional Commissioner for Mbeya, Honorable Amos Makala, congratulates CST for implementing the project in his region. He says the project works in line with the 5th Government Development plan, which emphasizes education for all. Mr Makala argues that CST has been helping children with disabilities in their schooling, and also by forming children clubs where they teach about children’s rights and equal opportunities in education.

Zedekia Kalisi, is a mother of a child with albinism. She says her life began to be more financially unstable after giving birth to that child. “I used to be engaged in various economic activities. My husband loved me and supported the family financially. I never thought he would abandon us after having this baby,” she says while emphasizing that she has to stop doing most of her economic activities for the sake of just staying at home and taking care of her baby. “I thank CST for this project. It helps to educate people on the impact of stigma on children with disabilities. My child now goes to school. I also get sufficient time to work,” she says.

FCS happy of grantees performance after visit



 

Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) expects more achievements to be registered through on-going projects which are being implemented throughout the country. These high expectations result from the outcome of the monitoring and support visits undertaken by FCS staff members from 5 to 13 April this year.

The overall reflection of FCS staff members reveals that many grantees have improved both project implementation and results capturing. It has been noted that, some organizations have drastically improved their capacity to manage their grants and are reaping early fruits.

FCS Executive Director Mr. Francis Kiwanga who also visited some grantees, says the overall assessment is an appreciation of the good work which FCS grantees are doing. The Executive Director further reveals that there is a fundamental impact on social economic transformation as a result of grantee operations at grassroots level, although there is still room for greater improvement. He, however, adds that FCS and other stakeholders needed to do more by strengthening the sector and enlivening as it previously used to be.

For his part, FCS Program Manager Francis Uhadi said there was an increase in compliance; and that good results have been attained. Mr Uhadi said, there was a remarkable change in the grantees financial management, and they were expecting to see a few audit queries on funded projects this year. “Generally speaking, there is a pronounced trend on ground, which translates into greater capacity growth of CSO grant management,” he says.

Gesturd  Haule, the FCS Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager, says his department plans to develop a guiding manual on monitoring and evaluation in order to boost FCS grantees ability to capture results. “There are some organisations which have more to report as far as results are concerned. They do less simply because they lack additional monitoring and evaluation skills,” he says. 

LIWOPAC joins fight against childhood pregnancy

 

Here is a girl, call her Miss X. She looks young and aged less than 18 years.  She is also pregnant. Child pregnancy seems to be a normal occurrence here in Lindi.

I walk closer and ask her about her pregnancy. She looks at me in a doubting manner. It appears she didn’t expect any question from me. After a while, she answers: “I am doing fine.” Miss X is 16 years old. Her real name is Sharifa. She is a resident of Kilwa Masoko in Lindi Region of Southern Tanzania.

Shariffa left school when she was 11 and got married in the same year. Her marriage was short-lived. . The husband chose to escape. There is a Swahili proverb that states: “Something you don’t understand is comparable to total darkness.” Actually, her current pregnancy is not the first one. She already has a two year-old baby at home.

There are many young mothers like Shariffa in Southern Tanzania. It is said that the social environment, culture and traditions are key factors in early marriages and child pregnancy. Poor family management and the quest for wealth by most parents have forced many girls to leave their homes and get married. Some of them are aged less than 18 years.

Godfrey Zambi, the Lindi Regional Commissioner, when asked to comment on the issue, says that child pregnancy and early marriages are caused by irresponsive parenting and poverty. “Families prefer forcing young girls to get married for the sake receiving dowry.”

The local initiation traditions commonly known as jando and unyago also cause early marriages and childhood pregnancy. “Jando and Unyagoceremonies are mainly for youth initiation. During the ceremonies, the youth are trained to control their sexual appetite,” Zambi says, adding that Liwale, Kilwa, Nachingwea and Lindi Rural are districts where the ceremonies are quite common.

There is a scientifically proven fact that child pregnancy, especially for girls aged below 18, can led to the abnormal children and cause deaths of young mothers. Girls aged below 18 are considered immature for reproduction.. Current records show that there were 32 pregnancies of girls aged below 18 years in Lindi in the year 2016. Among them were 13 primary school girls.. "We are working with NGOs based in Lindi to provide education on safe marriages and also engage the society to know problems caused by child pregnancy and early marriages,” the Lindi RC says.

On the other hand, the Lindi Women Paralegal Aid Center (LIPAWOC), which is an FCS grantee, conducts various seminars on women and children rights. The LIPAWOC director, Cosma Bulu, said in an interview with this correspondent that LIPAWOC had identified poverty and poor knowledge of women on reproduction issues as key causes of child pregrancy and early marriages.

Bulu adds that the divorce of parents is yet another factor that leads towards child pregnancy and early marriages. “There is high rate of divorce in this region, which both influences and forces many girls to go for early marriages.

FCS’s Guest Writer Sylvester Hanga visited and talked to Charles Lwabulala, the Secretary-General of Iringa Civil Society Organization (ICISO) about the network’s engagement in the East African Community Integration initiative supported by the Foundation

 

Q 1. Briefly describe ICISO and its mission and key objectives?

Lwabulala: Iringa Civil Society Organizations [ICISO- Umbrella] was established in 2000 by CSOs including the Community Based Organizations [CBOs], Faith Based Organizations [FBOs] and Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] involved in various activities of different sectors in Iringa region. The organization was registered by the government of Tanzania as NGO with registration number S.O. No. 10966 on September 2001, with a compliance certificate No. 00001548 which was issued  on 12th December 2013. ICISO operates in the whole region of Iringa. Currently the umbrella has more than 112 members and they are spread all over the region.

Our vision is to see a sustainable and vibrant engagement between CSOs and the government in Iringa region. Our Mission is to build solidarity among CSOs in Iringa region in order to accelerate development and promote equitable economic, social and cultural growth for improving the quality of life through a range of short and long term strategies. In addition, our goal is to act as an umbrella organization representing the interests of the Civil Society [CBOs, FBOs, NGOs] and serve the community.

Our general objectives are to coordinate programmes and activities of CSOs of Iringa region, to facilitate communication system and dissemination of information to stakeholders and provide the capacity building to CSOs in the region including OD, Policy, Good Governance, Advocacy and Lobbying.

Q.  ICISO is a member of the EACSOF Secretariat. Briefly describe the Forum and how useful it is to Tanzanian CSOs?

Lwabulala: ICISO has involved itself in EACSOF activities and plans by pushing up the establishment of EACSOF Tanzania chapter. EAC member member countries each have EACSOF country chapter from which some of their leaders have been accorded observer status in the EACSOF secretariat meetings. Tanzania had no representative from the Civil Society Sector to the secretariat. ICISO has participated in various meetings Organized by TANGO and some sponsored by the Foundation of Civil society to chart ways and means of establishing EACSOF Tanzania Chapter. ICISO participated fully in the drawing of the constitution from the beginning up to the end when a caretaker Secretariat was established and adapting the constitution. ICISO (represented by me) chaired one of those meetings). ICISO carried out a Survey through its members to know people conducting cross border trade to know their problems and experiences which eventually were shared in the above said meetings.

 

Q. In what ways has ICISO been involved in EACSOF plans and activities to-date?

Lwabulala: ICISO is planning to conduct an Advocacy Strategy to boost awareness to its members, Business Interest Groups who have very little information on the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols by disseminating friendly user language of rules and regulations so that they can be understood well to enable them take full advantages of the provisions- especially those on cross-border trade.

Apart from the Advocacy strategy, ICISO will follow up all protocols and strategies of the EAC integration, translate them into user friendly language and distribute them to our members and general public, we will as well disseminate the same through community Radios and other electronic channels.

Q. Can you explain how the ICISO Advocacy Strategy will support its members to participate in the East African integration process and which activities has your network implemented in spearheading EAC integration in Iringa region?

Lwabulala: ICISO through TCCIA Iringa Branch has identified three members conducting cross border trade and recommended them to TANGO and eventually they attended a 2 days’ workshop on matters related to cross border trade.

Q. What serious challenges has ICISO encountered in carrying out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration?

Lwabulala: ICISO has encountered a number of challenges in our efforts to carry out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration. One is lack of funds with which to pay for the services and activities we have planned to undertake. There are also the problems of unavailability of rules, regulation and protocols governing the EAC integration. Also, our members and the general public are not aware that they have a part to pay! They think that the whole issue of EAC integration concerns politicians and Government officers. The few traders who ventured to conduct Cross Border Trade have since despaired due to hardships they encountered on both Borders i.e on the Tanzania side and neighboring country. Paying high duties on small consignments(rules and regulations are not readily available lack of the much needed information. Constant charging requirements on goods exported to neighboring countries ie: (in the past they used to export rice but now they are compelled to sell without removing husks!

Q. What will you propose as the right way or approach in enabling your organization play its part in supporting members on EAC integration initiative?

Lwabulala: In order ICISO to pay its part in supporting our members on EAC integration initiative, it needs funds with which it will use to: reach its members in the region, collect information (rules and regulations of different protocols) translate them into friendly user language and disseminate them through print and electronic media, conduct workshops and seminars, websites as well as live radio broadcastings through community radio.

Q: In two paragraphs describe your experience in working with CSOs and networks in Tanzania

Lwabulala: I joined the CSOs sector in 1995 when I spearheaded the establishment of The Tanzania Diamond and Gemstones Polishers Association aiming at promoting the need to add value to Diamonds and gemstones instead of selling them as rough. I was later elected its first chairperson.

In 2000 I participated in the birth of ICISO as its public relations officer since then to date. We established districts networks in 6 districts which are still working (three of them are now in Njombe Region). In collaboration with Networks of Mbeya and Rukwa Regions we established the Southern Highlands NGO Network (SOHINGONET). In collaboration with Forum CC, I organized a one day workshop of CSOs from The Southern Highlands Zone in Iringa to collect CSOs inputs to the National strategy for Climate Change.

Together with nine others, I represented Tanzania CSOs as advocates/activist on Climate Change to the CoP 17 which was held in South Africa in Kwa Zulu Natal, I as well presented a paper on Indigenous knowledge in fighting Climate Change which was organized by UNESCO and was held in MAURITIUS. I have participated in several National CSOs forums conducted by different institutions like FCS, TANGO, TCDD, the government of Tanzania just to mention a few.

ICISO organized a public debate on “MKUKUTA” funded by the Foundation for Civil Society. 150 participants representing the CSOs and normal citizens from all over the region and few from Mbeya and Ruvuma regions. All members of regional secretariat (Government) were there to answer questions and comments on the implementation of different sectors in MKUKUTA. The issues raised were entered into the action plan which is being worked out by the CSOs and the government at regional and district levels. The citizens are demanding more debates.

Taxmen, police frustrate cross border business, traders complain *Majority say EAC is now of little benefit to them

When the East Africa Community (EAC) was revived on July 7, 2000, setting the regional integration milestones beginning with establishment of Customs Union, Common Market, Common Currency and lastly arrangements for a political federation, residents of the partner states, especially people engaging in cross boarder business, had high hopes of having their standard of living uplifted in one way or another.

However, in reality such a dream has vanished in the thin air as business environment in some borders has turned ‘hostile’ with tax or custom officials and police bearing the blame.

A survey conducted by the Guardian newspaper (with the financial support of the Foundation for Civil Society)) at Mutukula which borders Tanzania and Uganda and also at Kaisho, a centre located about 30 kilometres from another border location called Murongo, both in Kagera Region, has proved beyond reasonable doubt that individuals engaging in cross-border trade are subjected to stringent taxation measures and unnecessary harassment by officials on the Tanzania side.

The mistreatment, according to the business community, has prompted them to stop importing goods, especially non-food products from Uganda through Mutukula and Murongo borders.

Traders who volunteered to speak to The FCS correspondent revealed that cross border trade, especially which involves textile products, has substantially declined as majority of traders have now opted to buy their goods from Mwanza and Dar es Salaam Regions.

A petty trader who identified himself by the single name of Shafii, said that most textile traders had ceased to import their goods from Uganda, after some of their colleagues underwent stringent taxation procedures at Mutukula border in the previous days.

“I personally thought that EAC would simplify cross border business, but unfortunately, that is not the case,” he insisted. However, Shafii admitted that the regional bloc had significantly simplified the movements of its citizens.

A woman in Bukoba Municipality, who runs the baby cloth shop and who preferred anonymity, said she found it easier to buy her merchandise from either Dar es Salaam or Mwanza rather than Uganda due to taxation hassles.

This reporter witnessed the luggage of passengers who had either started their journey at Mutukula border and traveling to Bukoba or had crossed the border to Tanzania from Uganda, being thoroughly inspected by tax officials.

This reporter’s small bag was also searched by custom officials at Mutukula border as he was returning from Uganda side where he had briefly crossed, obviously in search for commodities they thought were purchased on the Uganda side of the border.

Donatus Martin, a trader at Kaisho centre in Kyerwa District near Murongo, at the border between Tanzania and Uganda, blamed Tanzanian tax officials for being too harsh on them as opposed to their colleagues in Uganda (Ugandan tax officials).

“Ugandan tax officials are so considerate to us whenever we buy goods there, but trouble now starts brewing when you meet the Tanzanian tax officials. Personally, I am no longer importing commodities from Uganda,” he said.

He added:” Once you meet Tanzanian tax officials at the border they would start counting one item after the other before they slap you with unbearable tax estimates.”

According to Martin, a businessman may find himself paying almost 80 per cent of the total value of the commodities he purchases in Kampala as tax at Murongo border.

He said it might  take him four days to travel to Mwanza and bring back merchandise to his shops at Kaisho, but business  would still be more profitable than importing it from Uganda through Mutukula or Murongo borders, a trip that takes  only a single day.

Majaliwa Emmanuel a young businessman at Kaisho centre, branded Murongo border as an ‘unfriendly gate’ for their business. He went further to describe the EAC as a ‘failed project’ simply because it does not benefit ordinary people engaging in petty business.

“When we speak of EAC as a project, our leaders should come up with a way to see how we, the petty traders, would benefit from the bloc. It does not sound good for tax officials and police at the barriers to harass us whenever we cross the border while carrying commodities bought from Uganda,” he insisted.

He added :”We  hear everydaythat EAC has institutions  like Customs Union and Common Market but for us, the common people, we don’t see their benefits because the taxes are high whenever we import goods from neighboring Uganda”.

Majaliwa admitted that customs officials were only flexible  if one bought items in Uganda for personal use at home such as flour or cooking oil but not for anything they suspected was  meant for sale.

Edward Bibangama echoed similar sentiments, saying estimates for tax on goods imported from the neighbouring Uganda was high, a factor that discourages them from travelling to Kampala or Mbarara.

Bibangama said sometimes, police officers stationed at road barriers would ask them (the businessmen) to offload their commodities from vehicles for tax verification.

“Always we pay tax at the borders but police stationed at barriers would start harassing us as if customs officials have not done their job. This is embarrassing,” he said. Another petty trader, Deus Daudi expressed similar sentiments.

Aristide Fulgence expressed his disappointment with customs officials. “One day I was forced to surrender my commodities worth TSh. 50,000 to customs officials for no apparent reason. For a petty trader like me, that was a huge blow,” he said. 

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