Corporal punishment is harming our children
Many children face corporal punishment at home in Tanzania
“I was shocked to find her lying on the floor alone, crying, and unable to speak. Her back was bloody and fully covered with marks of a rope or wire,” said a woman who was also a member of the Women and Children Protection Committee in Tunduma District, Songwe Region.
Salama*, a 9-year-old girl was accused by her mother of stealing a flash drive from a neighbour’s house. She needed to be rushed to the hospital because she had been severely beaten by her mother as punishment for the theft.
The case was reported by a member of the Women and Children Protection Committee to the district social welfare officer who also notified the police. The Women and Children Protection Committees consist of health workers, community police officers, religious and traditional leaders, influential elders, and village officers who help to raise awareness about violence against women and children as well as report cases happening in the community. Members are normally appointed by the community and the work they do is voluntary. UNICEF supports local government authorities to establish these committees from the regional to village level and train the members on how to prevent and respond to cases of violence and abuse in their communities.
Salama’s mother was arrested and subsequently found guilty in court for inflicting significant harm on her child through corporal punishment. She was sentenced to one year in prison or pay a fine of 200,000 TZS (about $85 USD), which she was unable to pay. Her husband refused to help pay the fine, stating that "she is always so harsh to the children. I think she is possessed." The social welfare officer managed to persuade Salama’s father to support his wife because they have an 11-month-old baby who still needs the mother's care. Eventually, he agreed to pay the fine.
I am not okay, I hear voices in my head telling me to run very far away, cry, and beat my children even when they do something small.
After the case, Salama and her mother received psychosocial support from the social welfare officer. During one of the sessions with the social welfare officer, Salama’s mother admitted that “I am not okay, I hear voices in my head telling me to run very far away, cry, and beat my children even when they do something small." Based on this information, the social welfare officer decided to seek support from a religious leader who was then able to provide Salama’s mother with further support.
The social welfare officer also supported the mother to enroll in one of the village’s parenting groups where she is learning skills on positive parenting and non-harmful discipline. To help prevent violence and abuse in the home, UNICEF supports the Government of Tanzania to implement the Parenting Education Programme, which empowers parents and caregivers to adopt positive parenting approaches and thus create safe and nurturing relationships with their children. In each UNICEF-supported region, there are active parenting groups at the village level.
Corporal punishment and harmful discipline at school and in homes respectively are still prevalent in Tanzania. UNICEF continues to advocate with the Government of Tanzania to raise awareness on the long-term side effects of corporal punishment and to educate the community on other forms of discipline that do not cause harm to children, with the aim of ending all forms of violence against children.