Connections make a difference
Jonas Ndunguru believes connection is a force for good in this world. It has brought him into civil society activism and democratic advocacy, where he is now hard at work pushing for the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Governance. Despite shrinking civic space, he is optimistic about the future for his native Tanzania as well as Africa more broadly, as he sees the ideas of the charter starting to take root
Before I started going to university in 2012 I couldn’t get in, because I didn’t have enough money.
I was “on the street”, that is I had no job and nothing to do, so I looked everywhere forwork. I found a job teaching English and started saving up.
I made 70 dollars a month and had to spend 4 separate car rides to go to and from work every day. During this time I realized I have to really make the most of my time. I am in love with changes, trying to change things. I have really gotten into civil society work since I attended the Young African Leaders Initiative [Youth program supported by e.g. Barack Obama - Ed.] for a 3 month course in Nairobi, Kenya in 2017.
When I was 15 or 16, I joined a social club for children in need. I would play football with them and just spend time with them. Kids who have nothing, no food, who need help in their lives. Playing with these kids made me different, it changed me. It made me realize how connections can make a difference in people’s lives. I made a difference for these kids.
Then I met other volunteers in the club, and then we connected. They then helped me move on to other volunteering opportunities and activist work. So my connection with them made a difference for me.
- Arusha, Tanzania
- Completed ACDEG training with ActionAid Tanzania in 2018
- Communications officer at East Africa Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF)
Tanzania and the ACDEG
“Government officials are talking more about governance and democratic issues. We see that happening both in Tanzania and other places like Zambia.”
Now I work with East Africa Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF) on pushing the agenda of the African Charter for Democracy, Elections and Governance. For instance, we are conducting a legal analysis of the charter to find out how it can be implemented in accordance with the constitution of Tanzania. One issue here is freedom of speech in civil society. EACSOF received a notice from the government to submit documents showing who donates money towards our work. If they are not happy with who it is, they can shut us down. Same with other civil society organizations. But when you hear government officials actually talking about governance and democratic institutions, that is progress. So I think we will continue to make progress.
Every year for my birthday, I go to an orphanage in Arusha where I grew up. I bring books and pens and other school stuff for the kids. My connection with the kids makes me happy. Also visiting my family makes me happy. I go home to them every weekend. I love my family.