SMS as an enabler of the Right to Health in Tanzania

By Ashnah Kalemera |

In its pursuit to establish strategic mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights in Tanzania, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) is progressing awareness on the right to health among vulnerable communities and human rights practitioners in five regions in Tanzania.

CHRAGG’s recent drive which commenced in August 2016 and leverages the existing SMS for Human Rights reporting system has seen capacity building of over 100 staff at its head office in Dar es Salaam and three regional offices in (location of offices) to improve their understating of the right to health and enable them appropriately handle related violation reports received through the platform.

Furthermore, nearly 200 individuals including sexual minorities, the elderly, women, health workers and local leaders have been trained on the principles of right to health to increase their awareness and ability to monitor and report on the same. The training beneficiaries constituted 61% female. 

The “highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being” is enshrined in the Constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2006. Vulnerable and marginalized communities such as indigenous people, women, and sexual minorities are often less likely to enjoy the right to health. Achieving all citizens’ right to health, according to WHO, is closely related to other human rights including non discrimination, access to information and participation.

The right to health includes both freedoms and entitlements.

Freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body (e.g. sexual and reproductive rights) and to be free from interference (e.g. free from torture and from non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation).

Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.

See WHO Health and Human Rights Factsheet

The training of CHRAGG staff has lead to improved understanding of minority rights and the incorporation of acquired skills and knowledge in their daily work. “Most of the things are everyday but I never thought they are covered in right to health,” said one staff. “I did not know if the Commission can be involved in this,” noted another. Going forward, staff are expected to classify minority violation reports appropriately and work towards their speedy resolution. Indeed, slow resolution of reports was among the concerns raised by participants in the regional awareness workshops.
In December 2012, CHRAGG launched the SMS for Human Rights System to make it easier for citizens to report human rights violations. Since then, the Commission has conducted campaigns to raise awareness about the system throughout Tanzania. This has greatly boosted the number of reports received through SMS.

In 2013, there were 864 recorded reports, while in 2015, the reports went up to 2159.

As part of ongoing activities, CHRAGG is developing and testing a minority groups database within the existing complaints handling system. Once implemented, the database will enable toll free human rights violations reporting for minorities, efficient and confidential case management and follow up, as well as statistics disaggregation of human rights violation reports by minority rights abuses.
Established in 2001 in fulfillment of Tanzania’s national constitution, CHRAGG plays the dual role of an ombudsman and a human rights commission for the protection and promotion of human rights as well as good governance.
CHRAGG is a member of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network whose work is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider). The network is coordinated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

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