Volunteerism fuelling grassroots CSOs in Tanzania

There is one common modus operandi (Mode of Operation) in major national Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that cuts across many CSOs operating in different areas in Tanzania. The mode of operation involves using volunteers to reach grassroots communities during the implementation of project interventions.  In due time, the volunteers become champions of a particular intervention or cause, educators and mobilizers within the communities. Despite differences in these CSOs, Volunteerism is the one thing that probably identifies many CSOs in the whole Sector.

It doesn’t matter how remote a community is or how complex an intervention is, community volunteers remain the most effective tool for reaching beneficiaries and their communities. Most of the volunteers are young, unemployed community residents, in other cases, they are graduates, while others have basic education. They are community members who are open to working with CSOs to make an impact in their communities. Most volunteers know communities well as they are residents.

Volunteers are a formidable force behind many national and regional CSOs’ work in fighting against harmful traditional practices. They go the extra mile in implementing community awareness campaigns on interventions. They link local leaders, civil society and community members in civic and human rights initiatives, youth empowerment, child protection efforts as well as livelihood improvement.

In many cases, Volunteers are readily available community actors who need training on how to engage and work on the intervention before its introduction in communities. The CSOs’ responsibility is to provide these training to volunteers at this stage. These training sessions involve – how to approach beneficiaries, how to link and collaborate with traditional and local leaders as well as understanding local governance structure for effective engagements related to their tasks assigned.

Volunteering to uplift women

Faustina Dunda lives in Wangama Village in Iringa District. She is among 14 members of a mostly women Jiongeze Group in a village a few kilometers from Iringa municipality. She has been working as a volunteer for over two years now. She works with Foundation for Civil Society grantee, Tanzania Rural Women & Children Development Foundation(TARWOC), an Iringa-based CSO focusing on women’s land rights and fighting against harmful traditional practices (HTPs) in Tanzania.

The community recommended me for volunteerism. I feel honored to be recommended to take on such responsibility. TARWOC has afforded me opportunities to attend various training sessions on laws governing land, marriage, civic and human rights which have helped me increase my knowledge and understanding on issues” says Faustina.

She has reached and engaged with her village through Community mobilizations and awareness conducted in village meetings, door to door calls, awareness campaigns and face to face engagements with her peers.

I consider myself lucky to get a chance to volunteer for my community. I have learned a lot. I have engaged with many people in the community. I love volunteering despite its challenges she mentions the challenges as difficulties in changing the perception of communities with a strong stance on specific issues, lack of working tools,  transport and lack of means of communication to reach rural communities.

Empowering communities on accountability and public expenditure

Tunduru Paralegal Centre (TUPACE) is a CSO based in Tunduru town in the southern region of Ruvuma. FCS provides the organization with grants to implement a project on social accountability (SAM) and public expenditure tracking (PETS) in Tunduru district. They also work with officially registered paralegals.

Their SAM/PETS volunteers were recruited in collaboration with communities, with each village recommending secondary graduates to represent their community. Then after, TUPACE organized necessary training in Tunduru town for the selected volunteers.

I have learned a lot because of the SAM/ PETS training. My understanding and confidence have increased.  I am confident to speak in public on issues on accountability and transparency. I am no longer afraid as I used to anymore.” Hassan Njongonda, Makoteni Village PETS Committee, Ligoma Ward.

Through the training, I know a lot about budgets, reports, and how to read and analyze them. Furthermore, I understand my duty and responsibility in my community. Volunteerism has allowed me to engage with many people and has boosted my confidence in various community issues’’  Subira Njaidi, Ligoma Village PETS Committee, Ligoma Ward.

I never knew anything about issues on accountability and PETS before the training. But now I know enough to volunteer and get involved in my village, especially in issues of agriculture.” Raika Hassan, farmer and PETS volunteer, Ligoma Village, Ligoma Ward.

After finishing Form Four, I didn’t get the opportunity to continue with my studies, so I saw PETS training as an opportunity to learn. I have learned a lot and met many professionals like lawyers and government officials. My confidence has increased due to this. Now, I know a lot about community plans and budget because of the training I was provided ” Said Achireka, farmer and PETS Committee volunteer in Nakapanya Ward.

Working for PETS Committee in my community has made me well known in my community. I am proud to represent the youth in my community. The PETS and other training sessions have increased my knowledge in new frontiers. I am confident and face any meeting as my fear of public speaking has disappeared. Most importantly, volunteerism has opened many doors of opportunity for me in my community as I get asked to participate in many social issues that affect the community ” Habiba Said, PETS Committee volunteer, Nakapanya Ward.

Community volunteerism vs motivation

Most of the volunteers working with CSOs in Tanzania are not paid or allocated with work allowances for many reasons. However, at the top is strategic thinkings that volunteers are part of communities where the interventions are implemented; thus are the best actors to engage with effectively and change communities. Secondly, the volunteerism approach seeks to nurture community participation and interest in community-related issues. Besides, paying for volunteers discourages the sense of community volunteerism, involvement, and commitment towards improving their communities. Many national and grassroots CSOs subscribe to this line of thinking.

Therefore, apart from necessary provisions during basic training sessions, volunteers are not paid as a permanent staff nor as consultants. Some CSOs provide a meagre monthly stipend to enable them to reach more areas in their communities and communicate while reporting their findings.