Tanzania Para Social Work Partnership Concludes

Ms. Habiba Mbalamula, a qualified PSW working in Arusha, shares her experiences providing assistance and support to members of her community as ISW consultant Furaha Demetrius looks on.

Amidst a bittersweet kaleidoscope of color and sound, the American International Health Alliance (AIHA) recently celebrated the graduation of a decade-long twinning partnership that spearheaded the development of a community-based cadre of Para Social Workers (PSW) in Tanzania and helped strengthen social work education and practice in the East African nation inhabited by some 52.5 million people.

With support from AIHA and technical assistance from Jane Addams College of Social Work and the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center (MATEC) at the University of Illinois – Chicago, our partners at the Tanzania Department of Social Welfare and the Institute of Social Work (ISW) in Dar es Salaam ably led the implementation of this initiative designed to improve access to much-needed community-level psychosocial support services for orphans and vulnerable children, as well as other vulnerable populations, across Tanzania.

Conducted on January 06, 2017, at Kebby’s Hotel in Dar es Salaam, the official graduation ceremony marked a strategic programmatic transition that will see the Department of Social Welfare and ISW play an enhanced role in the implementation and management of the program. The event was attended by senior Tanzania Government officials, representatives from AIHA, MATEC, and ISW, along with social work faculty, practitioners, and other key stakeholders.


“Orphans, vulnerable children, people living with HIV, and others in need in the community are able to receive critical support from Para Social Workers,” Assistant Commissioner for Social Welfare Training and Staff Development Mr. Simon Panga said during his keynote address. He noted that the program has helped to address Tanzania’s shortage of qualified social worker by creating a recipe for producing a pool of skilled individuals who serve in their own communities.

Young actors from Identity Theatre in Dar es Salaam performing a play depicting the important role Para Social Workers have taken on in communities across Tanzania.

Young actors from Identity Theatre in Dar es Salaam performing a play depicting the important role Para Social Workers have taken on in communities across Tanzania.

Highlighting some of the many successes achieved through the partnership over the past 10 years, ISW Program Director Ms. Leah Omari cited the training and deployment of more than 4,000 Para Social Workers, development of a career ladder that allows the volunteer PSW cadre a pathway to mid-level positions supported by the Government, and institutionalization of social work training up to the Master’s degree level at some 12 universities across Tanzania as key accomplishments.

ISW Rector Dr. Abu A.K. Mvungi underscored the many important transformations ushered in by the twinning partnership, particularly those related to institutional capacity building, stressing, “I can attest that our social work faculty now exhibit a remarkable level of competence and confidence thanks to this partnership.”

Providing personal testimony on the effectiveness of the PSW training program, Ms. Habiba Mbalamula, a qualified PSW working in the northern Tanzania city of Arusha, explained, “This program has taken me from just a community member with good intentions to a skilled community worker able to identify and support orphans and vulnerable children and other vulnerable members of community.”

Speaking on behalf of MATEC, Dr. Christine Curci expressed gratitude to both the Tanzanian Government and institutional partners for their steadfast collaboration in a joint endeavour that has delivered remarkable success over the past decade. She reiterated MATEC’s commitment the social welfare workforce intervention, stating, “We believe very strongly in the model of this program,” which AIHA has successfully replicated in other African countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia.

AIHA Country Director for Tanzania Mrs. Sally Chalamila provided some background information about the PSW program, noting that the original intent had been to create a “just in time” program to produce skilled volunteers who would deliver community-based services to help bridge the country’s critical shortage of health and allied workers. Instead, the partnership has gone well beyond that purview to strengthen the social welfare workforce in Tanzania across all levels. “ISW graduates from AIHA’s technical assistance program in a position of strength as one of Tanzania’s leading institutions for provision of social work expertise in the country,” Mrs. Chalamila said.

With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Tanzania, AIHA’s PSW program provides skills-based training in social work case management and child development to community-based caregivers. Leveraging the success of the Tanzania program, AIHA has used the model to empower other countries in the region to rapidly and effectively strengthen human resource capacity to better address the immediate needs of vulnerable children and families. The PSW model focuses on development of a previously underutilized segment of the workforce and — in addition to projects in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia — will soon be rolled out in Mozambique.