There is a notion that people in the rural parts of Tanzania are unaware of human rights and human rights violations or consider them unimportant, hence why they don’t bother reporting violations that occur in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. The notion has truth in it, but it is not reserved to people in rural areas only.
In a series of random interviews conducted with ordinary citizens (wananchi) in the district of Kinondoni in Dar es Salaam, it was revealed that most citizens are uninformed about Human Rights. This is a call for more campaigns on human rights education, if changes in human rights violations are to occur at all.
Wilfred Komba, a resident of Mwananyamala, with a form four level of education was one of the people who was interviewed. To the reporter’s surprise, the man was ignorant of the basic conceptual definition of human rights.
“I have forgotten the definition,” Komba said, “…you see the definition of human rights is very difficult to remember.”
When asked to just say in general what he understands about human rights he said, “I can’t remember right now.” He was even unable to mention even one activist or Human rights NGO. He only was able to mention the United Nations.
Ambilikile Anyisile, a food vender at Kinyai pub seems completely unaware of human rights. When asked what he knew about it he was like “uh… um.. let me think a bit.” And that was it.
As the conversation went on Ambilikile admitted that he was not knowledgeable about the topic but it was not the first time to hear such a term.
I went on to ask him if he knew any place where he could report the violation of human rights, whether it was his or someone else’s. He didn’t know.
After a moment he said, “maybe I can report human rights violations at the nearby police station.”
The conversation with the two citizens, Komba and Ambilikile, speaks to the lack of information surrounding human rights in local citizens. They may witness violations but because they have no information about human rights and civic education, such violations end up unreported.
When women were approached to interview on the topic, they refrained from commenting on the topic altogether.
This means that in order for ordinary people to become informed on issues of human rights, civic education and of reporting abuses, the media, civil society, and Human rights NGOs still have a long way to go.
Leonard is a recent Mass Communication graduate from St. Augustine University of Tanzania. He is currently attending a human rights reporting skills workshop in Dar es Salaam. He aspires to be a full-time human rights writer and is always available to empower the voiceless and ordinary Mwananchi (citizen) with accurate and reliable information. Leonard strongly believes that empowerment is always possible!