By Rena Malai, News staff
NASW Foundation Director Bob Arnold and NASW Manager of the Department of Social Justice and Human Rights Mel Wilson traveled to Tanzania in October to participate in the Tanzania Association of Social Workers (TASWO) Annual General Meeting.
The theme of the conference was “The Power of Social Work: Restoring Hope for Vulnerable Groups and Rebuilding Human Connections.”
NASW has had an ongoing relationship with TASWO for the last four years as part of the grant-funded Social Work Twinning Partnership, Arnold said, and he and Wilson attended the meeting to represent NASW and offer support to TASWO.
“NASW has partnered with TASWO to help strengthen the social work welfare and workforce in Tanzania,” Arnold said. “There are challenges and strategies that both organizations share, and the partnership is beneficial on both ends.”
Arnold and Wilson offered information to an audience of about 200, including key TASWO staff, social workers from across Tanzania, and social work students both local and from abroad.
Through the presentations they gave, Arnold touched on topics related to strengthening a membership organization, while Wilson focused on the subject of child welfare.
“Social workers in Tanzania are very involved about wanting the association to prosper,” Wilson said. “It was important for NASW to attend as it brings a different dimension to strategy and problem solving. We felt our point of view was appreciated.”
The conference updated attendees on the achievements and challenges TASWO has dealt with in the previous year, and developed strategies for its continued viability for next year and beyond.
During the pre-conference session, there was an extensive discussion of the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s National Costed Plan of Action for Most Vulnerable Children, Wilson said. The document is an important child welfare policy initiative that sets the framework for addressing the needs of vulnerable Tanzanian children, he said, especially those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, deaths of both parents, job-related child exploitation, sexual exploitation of children, and children living on the streets.
Wilson gave a presentation on the evolution of the child welfare system in the United States, which emphasized that the system did not evolve overnight and continues to have its own challenges in addressing the needs of vulnerable children.
“It took over 100 years for child welfare to evolve in the U.S. and it’s still evolving,” Wilson said. “ The National Costed Plan of Action for Most Vulnerable Children is relatively new, but is an important step toward improving the lives of vulnerable Tanzanian children.”
Wilson added that the Costed Plan specifically names social work as the lead profession for responding to many of the plan’s goals, and that TASWO has an opportunity to establish the profession as a central component of its government’s child welfare policy.
Arnold said helping social workers feel valued and honored is important to TASWO, and the organization has a goal of making members feel more unified and empowered.
Similar to the U.S., social workers in Tanzania place emphasis on the fact that every person has value, and they fight for everyone to have equal access to resources.
“We offered our perspective on how to help the public understand what a social work role encompasses,” Arnold said. “How to utilize the collective experiences of members, how to capitalize on the power of a professional organization, how to influence decision makers, how to define social work expertise — these are things that are at the forefront and what TASWO and NASW help members with every day.”
TASWO is the national professional association for social workers in Tanzania and has about 300 members. The headquarters are located in Dar es Salaam, the United Republic of Tanzania.
The National Association of Social Workers Foundation was founded in 2001, and was created to support NASW’s educational and charitable initiatives through a wide range of projects.
For more information: naswfoundation.org
For more on TASWO: taswo.or.tz
From the January 2014 NASW News.