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Navigating Identities in Tanzania

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

As a Volunteer with disabilities in Tanzania, you may face a special set of challenges. In Tanzania, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with visible physical disabilities and may sometimes discriminate against them. In Tanzanian rural communities, there is limited infrastructure needed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities compared to those in the United States. However, staff are committed to exploring creative and innovative ways to support reasonable accommodations for Volunteer success.

Gender role considerations

Tanzania is traditionally patriarchal, however, roles, livelihoods, and the social status of women in Tanzania have improved significantly in recent years. The seating ofSamia Suluhu Hassanin 2021 as the first woman president of Tanzania reflects this change.

In some rural and urban areas, women and Volunteers presenting as women may still find conservative attitudes regarding gender equality. Women have a burden of playing multiple roles in society putting in longer working hours and having more responsibilities at home compared to their male counterparts.

Women Volunteers may find that they are constantly asked about their marital status and whether they have children because women of a certain age are expected to be married.

LGBTQI+ considerations

The Peace Corps actively supports Volunteers and staff of all gender identities and sexual orientation and encourages Volunteers to serve as allies to their fellow Volunteers in all aspects. However, Tanzania is a conservative country and it has anti-LGBTQI+ laws that the government has been enforcing.

Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws, using caution in approaching topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation in their communities and throughout Tanzania.

Peace Corps Tanzania advises Volunteers who identify as LGBTQI+ to avoid disclosure (unless to trusted Peace Corps staff), as well as to refrain from public displays of affection. This reality is an issue of safety and security, especially in the current political context that is evolving rapidly with serious repercussions.

Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address how to navigate this aspect of identity during pre-service training and what support mechanisms are available. Please also refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State's travel page for more information.

Prospective Volunteers are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns during the interview or onboarding process.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Because of limited exposure, some Tanzanians will expect all U.S. citizens to be White, as they are unaware of the racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. For Volunteers, the range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly: from being mistaken for a host country national to being questioned about their U.S. citizenship, to facing behavior and language skill expectations or ridicule, to being able to get better prices for goods and services. These instances can be turned into teachable moments for the Volunteer and the host country national.

All Volunteers, including White Volunteers and those of color, should be mindful of the issues of race/ethnicity that are embedded in U.S. culture and within your country of service, and they should be mindful of being an ally to fellow Volunteers.

Black and African American Volunteers are likely to be called Mwafrika (African); East Asian Americans, Mchina (Chinese); South Asian Americans, Muhindi (Indian); and European or Hispanic, mzungu (foreigner). However, all foreigners may be called mzungu, regardless of race or ethnicity. Be prepared to tolerate terms that are considered derogatory in America (e.g., “half-caste” or “colored”), an unfortunate part of Western culture that some Tanzanians may have unwittingly adopted.

Age considerations

Older Volunteers may find their age an asset in-country and will often have access to individuals and insights that are not available to younger Volunteers. Older Volunteers are also more likely to be respected automatically for their age and wisdom. Some challenges for 50+ Volunteers may include being the only older person in a group of Volunteers and initially not feeling part of the group, and having difficulty in adjusting to a lack of structure and clarity in their role after having worked in very structured or demanding jobs. Pre-service training can also be particularly stressful for older trainees, whose lifelong learning styles and habits may or may not lend themselves to the techniques used.

While Tanzanians generally have great reverence for age, Tanzania’s legal retirement age is 60, and there is the perception that those past middle age are getting ready to “rest.”

Tanzanians are especially curious about older, women Volunteers. They may bepuzzled as to why they apparently have no spouse or children (even if they have the pictures to prove otherwise) and why they would leave their extended family to volunteer in Africa.

Religious considerations

The majority of the Tanzania population are Muslim (Sunni and Shiʿi) and Christian (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptist). The remainder are considered to hold traditional beliefs and are more predominant in rural areas. Volunteers whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of Tanzanians may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals.

Volunteers should expect to be asked about their religious beliefs because traditionally, Tanzanians will expect you to either be Muslim or Christian. Staff will equip Volunteers with language to respond to these questions appropriately. Whether religious or not, Volunteers are advised to avoid any discussions and/or arguments with locals regarding religion.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

Due to Tanzania's expectation that whenever a man and woman live together, they are by default married, unmarried couples serving together should be prepared to present themselves as married throughout their service.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Peace Corps Tanzania provides support to a diverse group of Volunteers of various faiths, identities, and sexual orientations. Post has two points of contact among local staff for ICDEIA support, as well as U.S. direct-hire staff, and any local staff Volunteers trust with ICDEIA issues or concerns. Additionally, Peace Corps Tanzania collaborates with the Embassy-based DEIA council, one U.S. direct hire, and two local staff members, to identify potential support avenues and programs that can be helpful for Volunteers. Lastly, ICDEIA training is incorporated into Peace Corps at pre-service training and in various trainings throughout service.