Promoting quality education for all.

Satisfying girls’ right to education in Tanzania: Re-entry for pregnant girls and young mothers


HakiElimu, a Tanzanian CSO working since 2001 to see an open, just, and democratic Tanzania, where all people enjoy the right to education that promotes equity, creativity, and critical thinking, is directing research-based advocacy to support girls’ education. Through the Right to Education Index (RTEI), HakiElimu found that girls’ expulsion from school because of pregnancy is not only legal but also commonplace in Tanzania. Upon further analysis of the issue, HakiElimu found evidence that 8,000 pregnant girls are forced to leave school annually in Tanzania (Martinez, 2017) and that roughly 30% of girls drop out due to pregnancy during secondary school. In addition, as of 2011, 84 percent of schools had no hand washing facilities, 86 percent had no access to clean water, and 99 percent had no soap (SNV, WaterAid, & UNICEF, 2011). The weak school infrastructure, coupled with the lack of legal and social protections for pregnant girls, hinders the full satisfaction of the right to education for girls in Tanzania. Finally, there is no re-entry policy for girls who leave school during pregnancy, contributing to reduced opportunities for girls who become pregnant at school age and perpetuating cycles of poverty nationwide. Using RTEI, HakiElimu focused their advocacy in 2017 on evidence-based policies that promote quality and inclusive education, particularly for girls.

RTEI is a biennial research to advocacy project where civil society organizations complete the RTEI Questionnaire monitoring the right to education nationally in the first year. In the second year, civil society partners implement advocacy strategies based on their previous findings and with RTEI as additional data to support their campaigns. In RTEI 2016, HakiElimu collected data on a wide range of right to education indicators and then in 2017 focused specifically on girls’ reentry. HakiElimu’s 2017 advocacy strategy centered on developing policy recommendations and drafting policy when applicable, as well as engaging citizens in monitoring progress towards the right to education. This two-fold approach emphasized HakiElimu’s strengths and national network of volunteers and engaged officials. HakiElimu’s experience in reaching their goals highlights particular challenges and innovative solutions in the RTEI 2017 advocacy strategies.

Policy engagement: HakiElimu’s campaign to improve girls’ education through targeted policy regarding early pregnancy gained momentum through: a national event; publication of re-entry guidelines for teen mothers; and two meetings about girls’ re-entry and RTEI results, one with eight opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) from three different parties and one with 23 MPs who were interested in education. HakiElimu tracked the MPs with whom they met and found that two MP participants raised re-entry guidelines and planning during the Parliamentary Budget Session for the Education Budget and that recommendations were pending approval. After the budget session, however, Tanzanian President Magufuli announced that teen mothers would not be allowed back in school.

To continue parliamentary engagement after this political setback, HakiElimu collaborated with RESULTS UK, who led a cross-party delegation of four UK Parliamentarians to Tanzania and delivered HakiElimu’s briefing about girls’ access to education to Tanzanian Parliamentarians, the Deputy Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, Minister of Health, and Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister's office. The delegation discussed HakiElimu's policy positions with leaders of the Tanzanian Women's Parliamentary Group and connected the two organizations for future collaboration. From the meetings, parliamentarians reported interest in capacity building opportunities about education policy with HakiElimu.

Grassroots engagement: One hundred and twenty members of the Friends of Education participated in school performance monitoring of girls’ education in 22 districts, holding a meeting in each district with 1,260 local leaders including District Executive Directors, Education Officers, councilors, and parents. Meeting participants identified challenges to girls’ education and child protection. Local Government Authorities, parents, and councilors agreed to work together to mitigate challenges. The HakiElimu Friends of Education network has also engaged in advocacy in three districts through media reporting and fundraising using HakiElimu-produced TV and radio spots (2) focusing on girls and young women’s re-entry to school post pregnancy and general barriers to girls’ education. After the Friends of Education meetings, communities worked on specific campaigns, such as for a 12-year-old girl who was pregnant and had been expelled from school. HakiElimu took the case to the media and the story was broadcasted by BBC radio, DW radio, Clouds TV, and Mwananchi newspaper. Another campaign organized a fundraiser to collect money for girls’ sanitary pads which were then distributed to four secondary schools. HakiElimu found that most participants in their outreach did not agree with the stagnant national policy on re-entry.

The impact of HakiElimu’s work will further target advocacy at the national level to promote girls’ access to education nationwide. Specifically, HakiElimu plans to work closely with parliamentarians and local government leaders as key levers to change the course of the ongoing policy debate about girls’ re-entry to school. Based on RTEI 2016 findings, HakiElimu explored a pressing national issue in depth with global partners, identifying strategies for international, national, and grassroots engagement. HakiElimu’s advocacy strategy presents lessons learned for other civil society organizations working on the right to education.

  • Increasing dialogue: Public dialogues are key to raise awareness among citizens and local leaders. HakiElimu found that citizens who participated in their workshops identified the need for re-entry programs for teen mothers and were opposed to policies that halted those programs. Local government officials are also receptive to engage citizens when involved in issues from the onset.
  • Building allies: HakiElimu highlighted that parliamentary engagement on education issues can be effective by working with MPs who are already interested in education to better utilize parliamentary sessions and budgeting negotiations.
  • Developing local support: Local government leaders are more receptive than central government leaders to the girls’ education campaign. HakiElimu uses local leaders’ interest in the campaign to increase local engagement while collaborating on how to engage the central government to support the girls’ education campaign.


About the authors: 

HakiElimu has worked since 2001 to see an open, just, and democratic Tanzania, where all people enjoy the right to education that promotes equity, creativity, and critical thinking. She has extensive experience in government engagement, including being instrumental in the 2015 Education and Training Policy. Since 2008, HakiElimu has conducted the Open Budget Survey, using its findings to advocate for greater budget transparency.


Allyson is the Senior Associate on the Right to Education Index at RESULTS Educational Fund. She has over ten years’ experience in education research, project development, and monitoring and evaluation worldwide. She has worked on education and human rights programs in the U.S., conflict resolution training in Liberia, health education in Uganda, nonformal education in emergencies, and technology and education worldwide. She teaches research methodology, and monitoring and evaluation at American University and holds a PhD in Education from Pennsylvania State University.

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