Knowing your rights: awareness raising on land and environmental rights and access to justice in rural communities of Tanzania

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As part of the EU-funded project “Improving monitoring, research and dialogue on Business and Human Rights in Tanzania”, Business and Human Rights Tanzania (BHRT) has been conducting public education campaigns in remote rural areas of Tanzania. This activity aimed to support individuals and communities affected by or vulnerable to corporate harm to claim their rights and access justice in order to hold corporations accountable.

In 2019, BHRT – in collaboration with project partner CHRAGG -, conducted a series of fact-finding missions into claims of corporate human rights violations, including issues reported in communities surrounding Kilombero Plantation (Kilombero, Morogoro region) and Bulyanhuru Gold Mine (Kahama, Shinyanga region). Several legal issues were reported during these missions, which relate mostly to land rights and environmental issues. During these missions, it became again clear that awareness on matters related to human rights and accessing justice among the community members was limited, and legal aid services were largely inaccessible due to the remoteness of the areas.  

To respond to these challenges, BHRT – in liaison with IPIS and paralegal centres working in the regions – undertook awareness raising, capacity building and legal aid provision activities in remote communities of Kahama (Shinyanga) and Kilombero (Morogoro). In line with key needs identified, these campaigns focused predominantly on land and environmental rights and on accessing legal assistance in cases of harm. The campaigns took place over several weeks in January and February 2021.

Awareness was raised by distributing information brochures to community members, detailing in a simplified way the laws and procedures to follow in the case of violation of land rights.

These written tools were complemented by community radio programmes. In total, 6 live radio programs were aired from 3 different local radio stations in Kahama and Kilombero. Community responses were overwhelming, as many people took the opportunity to call during the radio programs, asking questions on land, environment and other rights issues.

BHRT Team during community radio programmes in Kahama and Kilombero

To ensure continued remote legal assistance, BHRT set up two dedicated phone lines, for the public to use in case they need information, advice or legal assistance. These lines will remain active beyond the duration of the project. The contact numbers are:

For calls: (+225) 0672 189 192

For messages: (+225) 0756 486 233

As a result of the community awareness campaigns, BHRT saw a significant increase in the number of contacts and requests for assistance.

Overall, the need for awareness raising and public education remains very high, especially in rural and remote areas of Tanzania. Local Paralegal Centres and personnel trained to assess, identify and refer legal problems in rural communities are found to be of great importance to improve and protect vulnerable communities’ rights. However, both remain limited at present.

More details on BHRT’s work to raise awareness in Kahama and Kilombero can be found here.

For more information, you can contact BHRT or IPIS.

Business and Human Rights Tanzania (BHRT) is a registered Tanzanian non-profit with a mission to empower communities to step up for their rights under the Business and Human Rights frameworks, to monitor corporate activities and impacts and to advocate for the protection of rights of all Tanzanian citizens.

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This product is part of the Improving monitoring, research and dialogue on Business & Human Rights in Tanzania’ project implemented by CHRAGG, BHRT and IPIS, with the financial support of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.