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publicationApril 5, 2022

Tanzania Can Do More to Protect Women and Girls by Urgently Addressing Gaps in Efforts to Combat Gender-based Violence

Tanzania Can Do More to Protect Women and Girls by Urgently Addressing Gaps in Efforts to Combat Gender-based Violence

Primary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

Photo: Arne Hoel


  • There has been increasing attention to the issue of GBV in Tanzania with, for example, the recent adoption of National Plans of Action to end violence against women and children.
  • The high rate of gender-based violence is driven by social norms and exacerbated by high rates of early marriage and childbirth, and low levels of women’s economic independence and education.
  • The new Gender Assessment shows how often interrelated drivers of persisting gender gaps in human endowments, alongside access to land and assets, along with economic opportunities often compound each other.

DAR ES SALAAM, April 5, 2022— – In Tanzania, 40% of all women aged 15-49 years have experienced physical violence, while 17% have experienced sexual violence. Of women aged 15-49, 44% have experienced either physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Spousal violence prevalence is highest in rural areas, averaging 52% while the prevalence in urban areas averages 45%. Almost 30% of girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18.

While there has been increasing attention of the authorities to the issue of GBV in the country, with for example the recent adoption by both Mainland and Zanzibar governments of National Plans of Action (NPAs) to end violence against women and children, a new World Bank Group report, the Tanzania GBV Assessment, shows these efforts are lagging due to lack of core oversight, weak institutional capacities, and limited infrastructure, and calls for speeding up of action in order to protect the human capital of Tanzania’s women and girls.

“It is encouraging to see the commitment of policymakers to end violence against women and children in Tanzania,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director. “However, as our studies show, existing efforts such as the National Plans of Action need to be urgently supported by sustainable funding for their implementation. Also, laws that continue to undermine the rights of women and girls to be free from violence and discrimination need to be urgently reformed, such as the Law of Marriage Act whose repeal is still pending.”

The GBV Assessment, along with the Tanzania Gender Assessment 2022, bring together the latest evidence on gender gaps in human endowments, economic opportunities, ownership, and control of assets, and (women’s) voice and agency; and discuss the effectiveness of concrete policy and programmatic interventions that address these underlying drivers. The GBV Assessment focuses on GBV legislation and policies, systems and coordination, and response and prevention programming.

The Gender Assessment was the foundational analytical work supporting the special topic of the recent  17th Tanzania Economic Update: Empowering Women - Expanding Access to Assets and Economic Opportunities, that was launched in March, and discusses how often interrelated drivers of gender gaps in human endowments, access to land and assets, economic opportunities, together with women’s voice and agency often compound each other. While there has been significant progress in boosting women’s human endowments over the past decades, including a decrease in the total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of children born per women–from 6.2 in 1991 to 4.8 births per women in 2019, the Gender Assessment notes this TFR remains high, above the average of 4.6 for SSA. In addition, significant gender gaps persist at the upper-secondary school level, where there is an average of 78 women enrolled for every 100 men. Drivers of the gender gap at the secondary level are explained by financial constraints at higher education levels, gender norms that prioritize the education of boys over girls, and early marriage and childbirth.

Despite having the NPAs in place, the GBV Assessment findings point to several challenges and persisting gaps that undermine the efforts to address the crisis. For example, the limited allocation of resources in support of the implementation of the NPAs and the lack of monitoring frameworks, which is exacerbated by low funding.

In addition, overall GBV systems and coordination are not sufficiently resourced from the national level to the local level, while the paper system of data collection on service delivery statistics for GBV inhibits understanding of trends and needs. The authors identify further gaps across all sectors in GBV response and prevention programming, particularly in terms of quality of services and ensuring survivor-centered care.

The authors make several recommendations for addressing the imbalances. A particularly salient policy priority is urgently taking action to change the legislative framework to address child-marriage as a key driver of GBV. The Law of Marriage Act set the minimum age of marriage to 15 for girls and 18 for boys. In 2016 the High Court of Tanzania ruled that the minimum age for girls was unconstitutional, and this ruling was upheld subsequently by the Court of Appeal in 2019. As part of this ruling, the government was instructed to change the minimum age of marriage for girls to be 18 within one year, but this is still pending to date.

Additionally, the report recommends:

On Legislation and Policy:

  • Further efforts to reform laws that undermine rights of women and girls to be free from violence and discrimination, particularly by promoting advocacy on specific provisions for domestic violence and marital rape in the penal code.
  • A strategy that supports sustainable funding for the NPAs and their accelerated implementation, such as through the establishment of a large basket fund led by government with support from private sector and development partners.

On Systems and Coordination:

  • Strengthening national systems for coordination by facilitating a rapid review of the implementation of the coordination system for the NPAs and targeting support towards key gaps at the national and local level.
  • Investing in improvements to GBV information management systems to ensure standardized and quality GBV data is collected throughout the country. This could be done through the roll-out of the District Case Management System in those districts where it is not yet established.

On  Response and Prevention Programming:

  • Increasing investments towards capacity strengthening of systems, structures, and mechanisms across the entire service delivery chain, i.e., justice sector, health sector, and social welfare sector.
  • Changing social norms that perpetuate the under-reporting of GBV by promoting help-seeking behaviors and building the capacity of service providers to enable them to ensure survivor-centered approaches to GBV.
  • Supporting the development of a national system to monitor the quality and sustainability of service provision in one-stop centers, including staff capacity assessments and quality-of-care feedback by survivors receiving care. Invest in staff training on survivor-centered approaches and expanding access to care for under-served populations.