Crossroads volunteers bring specialized skills and training to the first ever women’s shelter in Tanzania

KWIECO’s women’s shelter in Moshi, Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organization (KWIECO), a Tanzanian organization working for human rights and gender equality, opened the first-of-its-kind women’s shelter for abuse survivors in Tanzania in 2015 but the process was tough. To help them meet their goals, Crossroads International sought out expertise to help them support women fleeing violence. In 2016, Crossroads and KWIECO partnered with Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, an established Toronto-based women’s shelter, to learn from their 30-year experience helping women and children fleeing violence.

In a country where 39% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence since age 15 and 20% have experienced sexual violence, the need for shelters is crucial. Most women have no alternatives to their abusive home. “We have a number of women coming out for counselling, they are desperate, they have nowhere to go. And the way this is becoming an increasing problem is a result of the disintegration of the social system that we used to have,” Mama Mindi, a lawyer and KWIECO Managing Director, explained. The victims’ families often don’t have the financial means to help them and their kids.

In June 2016, three staff members of Ernestine’s went to Tanzania for two weeks to work with KWIECO. They helped with long-term planning, making daily operations more efficient and improving programming. They also brought a wealth of resources including creative tools like “Healthy relationship Bingo” and toys and books for the children. “We really wanted to highlight in the Tanzanian context, ‘What can programming look like, even with limited resources?’” Ernestine’s facility services co-ordinator, Deborah James-Sargeant explained.

Six months later, in December 2016, two members of KWIECO came to Toronto for three weeks. They worked with Ernestine’s shelter to learn more about their operations and their programs. “[A shelter] is not just giving somebody an accommodation to sleep. You really need to have a program in place. […] By coming to the shelter, it’s not an end of the process. She needs to go back into the community. […] We need to redefine our programs in order to make them more meaningful. We realized that empowerment of the women and children are a very important aspect of the programming,” Mama Minde explained while in Toronto. This trip was beneficial and allowed KWIECO to implement changes to their operations based on what they learned.

Mama Minde with Ernestine’s staff, Sharlene Tygesen, Deborah James-Sargeant and Monica Amenya and Crossroads program manager, Annie Kashamura Zawadi

Crossroads International has partnered with KWIECO to help support women’s empowerment since 2014. Crossroads volunteers are also assisting KWIECO to increase its capacity with marketing, web design and organizational planning. During his six-month mandate, Brian Touray worked on different topics like organizational development or strategic planning. “I spent days in the field, collecting data from their Paralegals who are the first point of contact with the beneficiaries. […] With the information I collected, KWIECO was able to provide additional help to their men and women on the ground, which has significantly reduced the number gender-based violence cases and increased the number of people that come forward to report other type of abuses inflicted on them,” he explained.

KWIECO, which also runs additional programs including human rights and gender education, women’s economic empowerment and litigation and legal advice, benefited a lot from these exchanges. Both this partnership and the work of the volunteers sent through Crossroads have helped them with strategic and organizational matters and programs development, improving therefore the way they operate.





Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: