Twaweza.org

Religious organizations: helping citizens ensure ethics and accountability

Religious institutions area among the best organized, with an ability to motivate and engender a high degree of loyalty among its members. Twaweza seeks to identify the common grounds between its values and that of religious organizations, and to craft creative partnerships that pursue common interests. Often these focus on ‘ethical’ issues and well-being of the poor, such as equitable use of public funds, combating corruption, ethical behavior among leaders and service providers, and promotion of human dignity. In its approach, Twaweza takes care to engage with both Islamic and Christian bodies.

In 2010, a great deal of effort was expended on researching and understanding basic theological positions and the structure, functioning and potential political pitfalls of the main Christian (Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal) and Islamic groups. This was done by establishing contact with key religious leaders, engaging in dialogue, and recruiting a knowledgeable consultant.

Building on this understanding, just prior to the national elections in Tanzania, support was provided to major religious umbrella bodies to develop a joint statement on leadership and accountability to citizens, and the attributes of a good leader. An illustrated booklet in Swahili popularizing these ideas was developed and over 700,000 copies were printed (at unit cost below USD 0.1) and distributed through religious networks and as newspaper inserts in early October 2010. According to our partners, an estimated 2.5-3 million people read and used the booklets. Feedback indicated a strong uptake and positive reaction, with many religious bodies using them in community discussion groups. Many requests were received for additional copies, and a large reprint was undertaken. There is no credible manner of attributing their impact on the elections, though it is notable that many of the themes featured strongly during the campaign in what many observers note was a watershed moment in the country’s history.

Other ideas were explored including the role of religious leaders in monitoring service delivery and flow of funds, and engaging citizens to solve local problems. A particular interest is the health sector, where many services are provided by religious bodies.

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