Maliki Muunguja, the Citizen

For the past few weeks, Tanzania has been in the global headlines with a positive tone thanks to a woman whose dedication and courage towards the promotion of human rights and good governance in the country have turned to a treasure.

On March 7, 2019, the US Department of State recognized 10 women in the world who have positively contributed to bringing about positive changes in their communities and among them there was a Tanzanian, Anna Henga, being the only recipient of the award from East Africa.

Many questions can be raised and so much can be discussed about both the award and the awardees. What is the aim of the award, what are the criteria for selection of awardees? Who are the awardees and most importantly what did they accomplish or what are they doing differently to qualify for such high-level accolade?

In summary, the International Women of Courage Award was established in 2007, to honor women around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

To date, under the IWOC program, the US Department of State has recognized over 120 women from more than 65 countries.

Awardees are nominated by the US embassies in different countries around the world and the Department of State select 10 out of all nominees with merits on advocacy for the protection of human rights, promotion of the advancement of the status of women, and fostering peace and government transparency around the world.

Anna Henga was nominated through the usual process and her outstanding efforts in human rights work is what made her part of 10 winners out of hundreds of women nominated from around the world.

Anna Henga (left) assists one of the victims of human rights violations in Ukerewe, Mwanza.

Who is Anna Henga?

For those who directly know Anna or have seen her in various human rights campaigns, they can tell from even the way she expresses herself that she is a bold and courageous woman. 

Anna Henga is a passionate human rights activist and the leader of the leading human rights advocacy organization in Tanzania namely Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).

Anna Henga has worked in human rights with LHRC for more than twelve years designing and leading number of human rights campaigns and initiatives. Some of these initiatives include women empowerment initiatives; advocacy for reforms of laws and policies; campaigns against harmful cultural traditions including FGM and Child Marriage; advocacy for domestication of international and regional conventions to promote rights of women and children; on top of that Anna managed a notable campaign for constitutional reforms in the country.
After she was appointed to take the top position at LHRC, the position that many were not sure that she could fit in because of the nature of work of the organization with high public expectations, Anna proved herself a woman to watch by unwaveringly sustaining the vision of the organization that is to stand against injustice. This is one of the qualities that have made her recognized with the women of courage award.

Beyond doubt, Anna has proved to the world a leader that many young girls and women should learn from. Anna dedicates the award to women at the grassroots who are doing whatever they do to positively change the society from the family level.

She believes that they are the number of unsung heroes in society because they have not got opportunities to showcase what they are doing to change lives in their communities daily. “I encourage fellow women and girls to recognize their positions in the society and boldly stand up for change.”

Anna’s call shows that Tanzania has many women and girls who are doing great things but at some point, they are not up to overcome the pressure inserted by the deep-rooted male dominance in the society.

Women and girls should stand against all odds, against the discriminative history and all forms of stereotypes and show the world that they are the force to reckon.

With more than half of the population being women, Tanzania needs more women to courageously bring about positive changes in all aspect of life. Let this woman of courage award be an inspiration to all women and girls in the society that they can and they have no reason to be afraid.