Many international conventions and human rights bodies have always demanded the inclusion of marginalised groups politically, socially and economically. Yet even with existing policies that advocate for the integration of these groups in sustainable development processes, little has been achieved to realise their social inclusion.
Hivos East Africa’s new Voice programme has taken a proactive approach in reaching out to marginalised groups in an effort to integrate their voices in development processes. This goes beyond the traditional funding mechanisms to help marginalised groups directly access productive and social services.
The programme conducted its first outreach in Tanzania, meeting with indigenous groups, sexual and gender minorities, youth, women and children. During the four-day visit, the Voice outreach team undertook a learning exercise in Mwanza, Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar to gain insight into the various challenges minority groups face when it comes to mainstream inclusion processes.
The delegation first visited the Tanzania Pastoralist Community Forum, an organisation that is leading indigenous groups in Arusha region in their quest for access to land, water and resources for the Maasai Community in Tanzania. In this forum, they met human rights defenders such as Joseph Parsambei and Maanda Ngoitiko, who have been on the frontline in defending land rights for women, the elderly and youth.
In Dar es Salaam, they met with sexual and gender minority groups to understand the new limitations put on dissent by the recent clampdowns on their organisations. John* a progressive key populations and vulnerable groups human rights defender, has been paving the way for capacity support for key populations’ organisations in Tanzania. “We are making headway in inclusion processes for key populations in Tanzania through various discussions with the government. At least we have common ground in the fact that there are various international instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the country adopted,” said Kashiha.
Another stop was at the Zanzibar Youth Empowerment Association, one of the leading CSOs in Zanzibar promoting human rights for key populations. Steered by Hamil*, the organisation focuses on advocating for inclusive health systems that are respectful of key populations. Discussions during the meeting focused on strategic litigation and media influencing to promote human rights for these groups.
Finally, they met with Angel Benedicto, a bold human rights defender in Mwanza region who has rescued over 565 children from abuse and exploitation in domestic work. Her organisation WoteSawa, which literally means “all are equal”, focuses on bringing together government, employers and law enforcement to advance the interests of child domestic workers.
After their week of learning and inspiration, the voice team concluded it is crucial to involve the community to co-create local solutions in addressing social problems. ”The concept of think, learn and do became a reality for me in this exercise,” said Ruth Kimani, Kenya’s Voice Programme Officer. ”For me, the aspect of continous learning with these groups to co-create solutions to address their problems is my take home,” said Benedict Ishabakaki, Tanzania’s Voice Programme Officer.
Hivos East Africa’s Voice Programme is part of a new Dutch government grant, managed and executed jointly by Oxfam Novib and Hivos, aimed at the most marginalised and discriminated people in ten low and lower-middle income countries, The East Africa programme works to amplify the voices of the unheard and those most likely to be muzzled due to stigma and discrimination throughout the region.
We envision a future where these groups are no longer treated as second-class citizens, but given opportunities to equally contribute to society.
Outreach to marginalised and discriminated groups plays a particularly important role within Voice. We use it as a tool to help expand knowledge of the programme, as well as an opportunity to inform people who interact with the Voice target group of the grant facility. This activities go a long way in establishing beneficial connections between like- minded people and organizations in the region for continued learning and empowerment of the most marginalised and discriminated groups.