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Twaweza Staff Immersion | Mwanga Region, Tanzania 2017

Every year, all Twaweza staff from the 3 East African countries come together in one country to live among those whose lives we seek to influence through our work.

Immersion at Twaweza is based on the belief that there is no better way to learn and understand than to participate. We experience day to day lives of the regular citizens and we seek to connect with both (local) government and other local authorities.

Immersion is not a research exercise; it is a “deep dive” into one particular location.

The purpose is not to generate hard data, but to give us an insight into a slice of a reality which we aim to affect through our work. It is ultimately to challenge and inform our own thinking.

How is it done?

  • Twaweza identifies the location for immersion, including the following criteria;
    •  Rural (or peri-urban) area
    •  diverse economic activities
    •  different religions
    •  Accessibility.
  • After the location selection, we contract a district partner in the selected area (normally our own Uwezo district partners) to identify local families that will be willing to host (a pair of) us for 4 days and 3 nights.
  • The families get briefed on the purpose of our visit: to participate in their daily life, to learn what things are important in their context. We emphasize that we’re not bringing any particular project or funding
  • The families are not paid to host us, however

We offer the households to keep some of the amenities we bring with us, such as mosquito nets, solar lamps, and water treatment tablets. We also offer a token of a small payment at the end of our stay, to defray costs

In 2017: Where and Who?

  • 2017 Immersion was held in Mwanga district which is located in Northern Tanzania (close to Moshi / Kilimanjaro)
  • 28 families (26 host families and 2 reserve families) were identified and briefed by our Uwezo district partners who are familiar with the area and the families.
  • The families were engaged in various economic activities such as agriculture, livestock keeping, small business, fishing and formal employment (e.g. teachers)
  • The 2017 Immersion had 51 participants: 49 staff members from Twaweza Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda office and 2 journalists (Mwananchi and The Citizen newspapers)

Our Methodology

  • In immersion we are defamiliarising ourselves with what we currently know in order to see things differently.
  • We keep our theories and our questions in the back of our minds while we are in the villages, so that we keep ourselves open to unexpected events, new and different conversations.
  • The key is, to the extent possible, just go with the flow.

Main areas of interest

With immersion we expect our staff to be open minded and free to explore issues that will come up during their stay. As a broad guide, we suggest to pay attention to a few core areas that are significant to Twaweza’s work.

This year the core area was:

Access to information, education and citizen agency

We asked staff to have these issues at the back of their minds since the main purpose of the activity was not to teach or even to investigate rather to listen, absorb, and learn. Therefore even with having our own areas of interest, we intended on letting the host family lead, decide what they wanted to show us and who they wanted us to meet.

Main observation areas:

1. Information

        a) What is the source of Information in the communities?

        b) What is the use of the Information acquired?

2. Citizens Agency: How do people interact with government on a daily basis?

3. Education: Knowledge, attitudes and perceptions on education in their districts.

Our experiences and observations in the host communities

Information:

  • The main source of their Information

Majority of the host families access information via Radio, Television, newspapers, Telephones, Religious leaders, Community and family members (word of mouth), community meetings, Village leaders etc

  • How do they use the acquired Information

Different families uses information based on their individual interest and socio-economic status for instance village leaders seemed to be more proactive users of the information for creating awareness to the citizens on certain matters. Other uses information for action taking (individual or collective) this was demonstrated during the TIN registration where majority participated.

Citizen Agency

The communities is looking at the government to play its roles, the accountability and responsibility is more at the individual level rather than community level for example people work hard for their own benefits. There is some aspect of fear in exercising agency (risk) where by the villagers refers to a case where a pastor was detained by police while demanding accountability.

Education

The community finds successful learning is just a matter of luck, this leads to low parental involvement as it mostly stops at taking the children to school. Majority of the communities don’t know the way forward after their children failing the exams especially standard seven exam as a result the children ends up becoming bodaboda drivers, house wives etc.

Immersion is a learning activity which we get to learn things that through our daily schedule would be not likely to understand. Through this activity, we observed and gather insights on education, access to information and citizen agency that might be useful into informing our mid-year review and/or our strategic reflection and planning for the following year.

Are you still curious? Read more on our 2017 immersion experience here.

Read more: immersion

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