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Dr. Dorothy Gwajima: Tanzania Minister Setting an Example of How Government Can Use Digital Platforms to be Close to Citizens

While community members are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of reporting incidents of gender-based violence, Dr. Gwajima acknowledges that there are still challenges in securing convictions. These difficulties reflect persistent issues within the community.

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There is nothing that goes unanswered. Whenever citizens tag her online or she notices something related to her Ministry, there is always a response. But it doesn’t end with conversations; there is follow-up action and feedback on the reported cases. This involves her officers, the police, other Ministries, and even higher authorities.

This is the story of Dr. Dorothy Gwajima, Tanzania’s Minister of Community Development, Gender, Women, and Special Groups, and how her Ministry continues to shape the fight against gender-based violence using digital tools alongside an existing physical network.

I have to be online; the community is also online

Although Dr. Gwajima admits she joined digital platforms late, she acknowledges the necessity of being online and so far many users online recognize the efforts of her ministry in using digital platforms to respond to complex societal issues and also raise awareness online.

“I have to try my best to use digital platforms because today’s society is largely online. We live in a digital world, which is also a great opportunity for development,” said Minister Gwajima when responding to a social media user who complimented her on timely response to issues.  

This engagement between Minister Gwajima and an individual online is just one of many that occur almost every hour. In this instance, she was providing feedback on a case shared online involving a public official from the Mafia District accused of raping his house help. She explained that she had gathered sufficient information, which was then shared with higher authorities. The official in question was sacked from his role and the Police investigation was opened.

Noticing the increased awareness of the Ministry’s activities on digital platforms, The Chanzo asked Dr. Gwajima on April 18, 2024, how her ministry’s strategic use and adoption of digital tools have impacted their work.

Dr. Gwajima explained that she believes the reported incidents of gender-based violence are still relatively low, compared to unreported cases, a situation that keeps her ministry on its toes.

“There are still a lot of incidents that are not reported. The response you see of people becoming courageous and speaking out is something to be grateful for. It means they have become more aware,” she argued.

I don’t see the need of having too much red tape on handling reports of these incidents, I am online if I see something I take action, I guide them through the system, this is how we work,” she insisted.

She continued: “Everyone needs to be motivated, don’t just look and remain silent on incidents of gender-based violence, make sure you report them.”

READ MORE: World Bank: Gender-based Violence Remains a Serious Concern in Tanzania

Public response

One of the challenges she faces in her online conversations is convincing the public that the systems work. However, gradually, more people are becoming accustomed to receiving responses and feedback when they bring a case to her attention.

“I didn’t think there would ever come a time I would say this, but I think you are one of the Minister who is very close to the people, this is different from the time of COVID-19, congratulations,” said  Dr. Abel Kinyondo, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Gwajima thinks it’s important for people to trust that systems put in place can work as they are intended to, but it’s still a work in progress.

Some of the recent cases that were solved. On May 14, 2024, there was a case that was circulating online of a person who sodomized an 8-year-old, on May 15, 2024, she reported I have visited the family in Magomeni on Sunday and went together with the family at the Police and we believe this will be solved.

On February 11, 2024, The Chanzo reported the incident of a deaf-mute teenage girl who was abused twice, the Ministry managed to spearhead the solving of this case.

There are countless of these stories, including children who missed school due to abuse, the cases were reported and there was a response and follow-up from authorities. Or the story of a deaf child who nearly lost an opportunity for education, but following a query from a good samaritan intervention was made.

READ MORE: Why Intimate Partner Violence Is Not a Family Issue

With the members of the public seeing that the government is responding, more and more people are coming up and reporting cases, building positive momentum for a fight against gender-based violence in the country.

A long way to go

While community members are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of reporting incidents of gender-based violence, Dr. Gwajima acknowledges that there are still challenges in securing convictions. These difficulties reflect persistent issues within the community.

“My appeal to society is that when you report these cases and the police are involved, let us offer them our utmost cooperation. We should not entertain excuses such as he’s the uncle, he’s a brother or grandfather, or he’s someone who lent us money,” she said.

She added: “You can see there is an increase in incident reports but the conviction rate is declining. This is all because families go back and settle these matters informally, so at the court, witnesses will no longer show up and the case ends up falling apart. This is very counterproductive in the fight against gender-based violence.”

In doubling up its efforts the ministry has set up a special WhatsApp/SMS number where people can report any issue or ask questions to the ministry, these are the numbers: 0774112233 | 0769608130| 0766400168

Digital Freedom and Innovation Day
The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

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