From the President
Helping Pave the Way for Others
By Jeane Anastas, PhD, LMSW
Social work is a global
profession, and NASW works to support the profession overseas and in its 56
chapters. As I wrote in a blog in August, the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Across Nations (SWAN) initiative has received a “twinning”
project grant from the American International Health Alliance (AIHA), with
funding from USAID, to assist in developing the social welfare workforce in
Tanzania. Specifically, NASW is partnering with the Tanzanian Social Work
Association (TASWO) to advance social work practice and education, as well as
social welfare legislation and systems in that nation.
What TASWO is working on
illustrates why professional social work associations are needed — not just for
those who work in the field, but also to enhance the well-being of society,
especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.
Our visit to Tanzania was in
conjunction with TASWO’s Annual General Meeting, which brings its membership
together in Dar es Salaam. Presentations were given on models of regulation,
quality assurance in social work education and practice, and workforce
development used in the United States and elsewhere. We then met for two days
of consultation with the executive committee of TASWO on their work in
developing the organization and in obtaining the same level of governmental
recognition and support for social work that other professions enjoy.
Observing TASWO’s work made me
realize how much we in the United States take for granted because of all of the
efforts here on behalf of the profession since the Progressive Era. Having
finished establishing the bylaws of their own organization, TASWO is now
crafting a code of ethics to raise the standard of practice and to enhance the
public’s and the government’s view of social work. In Tanzania, it is the
responsibility of the national government to legally define the nature and
scope of social work practice, the education needed to be a social worker and
the rights of the public with respect to social work services (registration or
licensing). In addition, social work education, which is growing and expanding
into new regions of the country, will come under the purview of the
professional association, although this will be a separate entity of the
association, Tanzania Emerging Social Work Education Program (TESWEP).
Educational standards will be developed that are consonant with international
norms for the profession. TASWO is currently drafting the federal legislation
that will establish these structures for professional practice and professional
Looking forward, TASWO is
planning for continuing professional education activities, the establishment of
a social work journal, and a survey of the social welfare workforce in Tanzania
to document the shortage of social workers and to describe the educational and
professional needs of social workers now providing frontline services.
In one of the poorer nations of
the world, it is easy to appreciate how the social work profession — both in
providing services and in advocating for an adequate set of social policies and
programs to form a basic “social safety net” for all — is so important to the
well-being of society.
To illustrate, Tanzania is one of
two African nations in which AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, and
pervasive poverty adds to the toll the disease continues to take on
individuals, families and communities.
Because of the epidemic, it is
estimated that 13 percent of Tanzanians 16 and under have lost one or both
parents. Antiviral medication is free to those who test positive, but many lack
the means to travel to a clinic to receive it. More than 80 percent of the
population in Tanzania works in the agricultural sector, manual labor that
cannot be sustained when one is ill or giving care to a family member.
Providing social, emotional and
tangible supports to individuals, families and communities affected by the
epidemic; ensuring that substitute care (e.g. in orphanages) for sick or
orphaned children meets adequate standards and has adequate funding; addressing
problems like child labor, child-headed households and street children living
on their own as well as the needs of grandparents now caring for their
grandchildren — these are issues that social workers know how to address. The
things that a professional association does are vital to all social workers
wherever we practice.
We salute our colleagues in TASWO
and commit NASW to continuing to strengthen social work here and abroad.
From November 2011 NASW News. © 2011 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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