Conference addresses social work in Tanzania

NTanzania Association of Social Workers’ conferenceASW President Jeane Anastas (front row, third from left) and CEO Elizabeth J. Clark (back row, far right in red) participated in the  and annual general meeting, held in October in Tanzania.

NASW President Jeane Anastas and NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark participated in the Tanzanian Association of Social Work (TASWO) conference “Making a Difference to the Vulnerable Groups,” which was held in October in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The conference was part of TASWO’s annual general meeting to address the profession of social work, finding ways to further enhance the role of social workers in Tanzania.

“The purpose of the trip was to continue to provide technical support to TASWO, through NASW’s twinning partnership project,” Anastas said. “The goal of the project is to help the recently dormant TASWO re-energize itself so it can develop sustainability throughout the country.”

Anastas gave presentations at the conference that addressed the opportunities and challenges social workers face, and she also talked about Social Work Pioneers. Clark spoke about the structure of NASW in terms of functions, state chapters and resources, and delivered a closing speech titled “Restoring Hope and the Power of Social Work.”

“Social work is developing in a major way in Tanzania,” Clark said.

A highlight of the conference was the attendance of Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, the Tanzania minister for health and social welfare. Mwinyi agreed to support a bill in Parliament that will regulate the profession of social work in Tanzania. With parliament backing, the profession would be significantly advanced in the country, according to the NASW Foundation.

“Having the minister of health attend is a huge step forward for TASWO, as it illustrates the growing importance of the social work profession in Tanzania,” Clark said.

The conference included other presentations that addressed issues social workers face in Tanzania, including memory work interventions for children and families dealing with HIV/AIDS; working with people who have serious mental illness and substance abuse issues; and working to secure the rights of people with albinism, a population that endures much physical trauma and abuse in the region because some believe owning a body part of an albino is good luck.

NASW’s attendance at the TASWO annual meeting is a representation of NASW’s Social Workers Across Nations (SWAN) program, which supports the twinning association-to-association partnership established between NASW and TASWO.

The goal of the partnership is to help build the social work profession in Tanzania by exchanging knowledge, information and professional experience.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, addresses the rights of children across the world and works to ensure they have their basic needs fulfilled.

The convention adopts specific rights known as “The four Ps” — Provision Rights, Protection Rights; Participation Rights; and Promotion — and has created the Committee for the Rights of the Child to look at each country to ensure the four Ps are being put into practice in relation to children’s rights. Every four to five years, the Committee for the Rights of the Child meets in the European Union to discuss what the countries are doing to make children’s rights a priority.

The NASW International Committee is working to make the U.S. part of the UNCRC — to date the only country that has yet to ratify.

According to Robin Mama, a representative of the International Federation of Social Workers, professor and dean at the Monmouth University School of Social Work in New Jersey, and an NASW board member, social workers can advocate for state legislation that mirrors the efforts of the UNCRC.

The more states that adopt the practices legislatively, the more the legislations will aid in a collected effort for U.S. ratification.

“This is on the president’s radar,” Mama said. “We need to show we support and value children and that we want them to be engaged and involved successfully in life.”

Mama, who has co-chaired Social Work Day for the United Nations, recommends that NASW members familiarize themselves with the UNCRC campaign website, check their own state for any piece of legislation that mirrors similar efforts, and advocate for getting full legislation passed.