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Q&A: Foundation for Civil Society

Denise Bonsu, Nasim Losai, Foundation for Civil Society   |   September 20, 2020   |   Comments

Part 6 of 7

An interview with Nasim Losai

[Editor’s Note: This week, R4D in partnership with FieldWorks is highlighting the obstacles faced by local civil society organizations around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic — and the unique and innovative ways that local organizations are at the forefront of response and prevention in low- and middle-income countries. As international organizations and donors adapt to their new reality, we want to amplify the experience, voices, and perceptions of those on their own frontlines — of how the ripple effects of the pandemic are felt by the world’s most vulnerable people and what can be done to “build back better.” In this post, Denise Bonsu shares her conversation with Ms. Nasim Losai, the Executive Director of Foundation for Civil Society (FCS).]

Denise Bonsu: How would you describe your organization to someone unfamiliar with your work?

Nasim Losai: Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) is an organization that provides grants and capacity building services to civil society organizations working to combat poverty in Tanzania. It started operating in 2003 and has transformed into the largest grant making organization in East Africa that provides capacity building and grants to civil society. To date, it has reached over 5000 civil societies in the country.

Denise: What ultimately do you hope to achieve with your work?

Nasim: One of our biggest areas of focus is on building civil awareness on a number of different issues in the community. Since we work in communities with different cultures and practices, we are trying to build awareness in these communities on the ethics of certain practices (e.g., gender based violence, female genital based mutilation and killing of people with Albinism), and letting them know that these practices go against basic human rights and should be discontinued. Another issue we are currently working on centers on land ownership. Even though official policy stipulates that women have the right to own land, this is not always practiced in communities. As a result, we are trying to educate the community on the rights of women to own land in order to create a livelihood for themselves. As a result of our work, certain communities have started to allow women to own land.

We are also supporting CSOs in establishing various income generating at the individual and group levels, and are working to build public awareness on the rights of People with Disabilities.  In addition we also work to ensure there are meaningful dialogues with different political stakeholders, CSOs, religious leaders for conflict management and peace building.

Denise: What are some of the effects that you have seen the covid-19 pandemic have on CSOs and NGOs in your country? 

Nasim: As a result of the pandemic, many CSOs had to pause a lot of the work they were doing which raised a number of fears, especially in regards to funding. There was also a shift in the working environment for CSOs across different levels. Many CSOs had to change their workplans to adapt to the current environment and to incorporate activities in response to COVID-19. CSOs also had to explore different means of carrying out their work (e.g., holding virtual meetings instead of in person ones), which was challenging for some.

Denise: How has the covid-19 pandemic affected your organization’s work locally?

Nasim: When COVID-19 started, FCS had to stop implementing certain activities and allowing staff members to come to the office. We also had to adopt different mechanisms recommended by the WHO to combat the pandemic, such as preventing visitors from coming to the office and shifting everything online. We also began providing supplies (e.g., hand sanitizer and soap) to ensure that everyone in the community (including people with disabilities) was able to take precautions. Additionally, we printed out materials from the MOH that outlined preventative measure in large fonts and distributed them to people with visual impairments.

Additionally, we are mobilizing resources (e.g., masks) in various communities and raising money to support Government led efforts to combat the pandemic. We are using radios and TVs to broadcast different messages on COVID-19 to communities to raise awareness on the pandemic. Lastly, we produce and distribute news bulletins every two weeks that highlight what different civil societies are doing in their communities to fight the pandemic. The last bulletin is expected to come out at the end of this month.

Denise: How has the pandemic affected your ability to collaborate and connect with the people and organizations you need to reach to be successful?

Nasim: As a result of the pandemic, we had to minimize physical meetings with CSOs and members of the community, and explore virtual means of communication (e.g., Zoom, WhatsApp, social media). We have also been using these virtual tools to discuss some of the issues surrounding the pandemic.

Denise: Is there anything that you are doing now to help other CSOs in Tanzania and beyond combat the pandemic — or consequences of the pandemic (like food access, corruption or closing civic space, economic inequalities)?  

Nasim: In addition to the answers outlined before, FCS funding is also launching radio programs where CSOs team up with health officials and district counselors to discuss the pandemic. We have also printed out materials, such as posters, and distributed them in different communities to increase awareness on the pandemic.

Denise: What changes do you think would help your country “build back better” after the pandemic? 

Nasim: Knowledge is Power. It is important to ensure that there is enough knowledge on COVID-19 and how it can be eradicated since we do not know when this problem will be over. Having proper knowledge on the pandemic will make it easier to fight it. It is also important to have disaster preparation mechanisms in place to mitigate the effects of future crises since COVID-19 was an unprecedented issue that no one was prepared for. 

Denise: What support could other partners/countries provide to help your country “build back better” after the pandemic?

Nasim: They could provide CSOs with different resources to help support and rebuild the economy as well as strengthen health systems. They could also promote knowledge sharing and provide resources and tools with which to better prepare for a future crisis.

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