What human rights are adolescent girls and young women in Tanzania aware of not being fulfilled?

Manami Sano explores in our latest international development blog.

Masters student blog series: Ideas and practice in International Development

By Manami Sano

Manami is a student on our MA Intercultural Communications and International Development.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a sensitive and complex issue in the world today. In Tanzania, gender-based violence is experienced by many adolescent girls and young women, but the majority of these victims are not able to utilize GBV health services (Mtaita et al., 2021). Equality and health are some of the basic rights every human being holds. People have the rights to be treated equally and to be able to access appropriate health care whenever they need it. 

However, the situations in Tanzania and many other countries show how these basic rights are infringed especially for women. In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted research about women’s health across 10 countries (Mtaita et al., 2021). They found out that between 13-62% of women had experienced physical violence in their life, 29% had experienced it within the past year, but only 3% of women utilize GBV health services (Mtaita et al., 2021).

"Supporting survivors of sexual and gender-based violence to heal and work again" by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

One of the reasons many GBV victims in Tanzania are not able to use GBV health services is that they do not have enough knowledge about the services (Mtaita et al., 2021). However, that is not the only reason. GBV involves not only physical issues but also mental issues and stigmas that victims suffer from (Mtaita et al., 2021). A study found that women tended to visit the health service centers more when the violence was committed by a stranger than when it was committed by someone familiar such as a partner, a husband, a family member, or a friend (Mtaita et al., 2021). Intimate partner violence (IPV) involves the problems of traditional gender norms and gender roles (Pimentel et al., 2021). Because there have been patriarchal societies in Tanzania, even if women’s rights were violated, women just had to accept it and endure the situations (Pimentel et al., 2021).

In a rights-based approach to development, there are two actors. One is rights-holders who assess their rights regularly and know whether their rights are fulfilled or not. If they find out their rights are not sufficiently fulfilled, they have to advocate their rights. The other actor is duty-bearers who make efforts to fulfill these rights which rights-holders claim (Broberg and Sano, 2018). The corresponding relationship and interaction between rights-holders and duty-bearers are very important in a rights-based approach to development.

In the case of Tanzania, those adolescent girls and young women are rights-holders, but because they have been economically and socially vulnerable, often they are not aware of their rights and are not able to be active participants in society. The Government of Tanzania and other stakeholders have been working on the issues of GBV and developing the National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children (NPA-VAWC) (Mtaita et al., 2021). One-stop center is one of the facilities they established which provides health care services to women (Mtaita et al., 2021). These duty-bearers seem to be functioning, but they need to tackle accountability and inclusion of rights-holders in their process of implementation.

Vulnerable rights-holders in Tanzania should be analyzed more and be supported from multiple aspects. Duty-bearers need to understand the interconnectedness of all human rights and take more comprehensive approaches to development. 

"Picture2" by iagri.tanzania is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


  • Broberg, M. and Sano, H, O. (2017) ‘Strengths and weaknesses in a human rights-based approach to international development – an analysis of a rights-based approach to development assistance based on practical experiences’, The international journal of human rights, 22(5), pp.664-680. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2017.1408591
  • Mtaita, C. et al. (2021) ‘Knowledge, Experience and Perception of Gender-Based Violence Health Services: A Mixed Methods Study on Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Tanzania’, International journal of environmental research and public health, 18, 8575. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168575
  • Pimentel, A, S. et al. (2021) ‘Women’s understanding of economic abuse in North-Western Tanzania’, Women’s health, 17, pp.1-11. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/17455065211042180