‘SEMA’ is Kiswahili for ‘SPEAK’ ~ we use technology to provide children with platforms where their voices are heard.

We run the National Child Helpline – in collaboration with Government of Tanzania – a toll-free telephone service (116) that responds to children needs in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. We voice their concerns to GOVERNMENT. With the Internet Watch Foundation hotline we remove child abuse images through an online portal.
We also run an SMS portal sharing information on issues around children and parenting, especially nutrition (Child and Maternal Nutrition), etc. Follow us @SemaTanzania on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where we share our experiences in the areas of parenting through our flagship hashtag #Malezi. #Malezi also posts articles, tweets, videos and text tips on our social media platforms on matters concerning children, parenting skills and children social services in Tanzania and beyond.
Through our #116Stories we share our experiences through impactful stories of children we have helped. Some of the stories we share are about our daily learning of managing a sustainable organization, our experience in obtaining and running formal agreements and MoUs with multiple government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and our #Malezi researches and findings. Through Children Opinion Letters and the Child Helpline, we provide evidence to strengthen response – when abuse happens, cases are properly referred to bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure the child is safe.

How We Employed the 9 Principles of Digital Development in Our Work


i. Address Privacy & Security

At C-Sema we intentionally make sure privacy is at the helm of how data is acquired, used, stored and shared. We have taken measures to protect confidential information including identities of individuals represented in data sets from unauthorized access and manipulation by third parties. Child protection standards are adhered to by a team of professionals who collect and use data considering the sensitivities around the data they collect, being transparent about how data will be collected and used, minimizing the amount of personal identifiable and sensitive information collected, creating and implementing policies that protect data and uphold children’s privacy and dignity, and creating a safe way of sharing impact stories based on data we gather.


ii. We’re Collaborative

We can certainly say that C-Sema is one of the most collaborative organizations in Tanzania. We have practical ways of sharing information, insights, strategies and resources across projects, government agencies, organizations and sectors, leading to our growing efficiency and impact. Early on we embraced the collaboration principle because we realized no single initiative or organization can make it happen alone. Our #SikuYaMtoto event which celebrates the International Day of the African Child has proven to have the most impact for we work together across footprints, focus areas and organizations and in partnership with corporates, local communities and governments. Collaborating does not just happen accidentally; it requires time, planning and dedicating resources to look for and develop opportunities.


iii. We’re Data Driven

Ahead of most decision-making processes – responsible team leads gather information and data from available research, operations experiences, project management experiences and data from secondary sources collected outside of our programs.


Since our quest to use data is designed to accelerate impact, we want most of our decision to be data-informed. We envisage making quality information available to the right people when they need it, and them using that data to take action and inform their work, not just for published work or donor reporting.


iv. Our 2020 Strategy is Built for Sustainability

We want to continue the expansion of C-Sema’s donor pool and our ability to mobilize resources locally. Our ability to locally fundraise is linked to whether our ‘brand’ relates to solving pressing children needs through the programmes we run. Yet our ‘brand’ admiration will appeal to reputable organizations whose brands matter most to them. We’ve positioned C-Sema as an excellent employer, able to attract a talented and dedicated workforce, where employees are valued and able to develop their individual skills and abilities.


Building sustainable programs, platforms and tools is essential to maintaining user and stakeholder support as well as to maximize long-term impact. Sustainability ensures that user and stakeholder contributions are not minimized due to interruptions, such as a loss of funding. For us, sustainability is achieved by developing a business model that has sustainable revenue generation via both traditional fundraising campaigns and social enterprise ventures.


v. Designing for Scale

All our main projects – the National Child Helpline, Sema Magazine and Children Opinion Letters are built and designed for scaling up from the start. All initiatives have been expanded easily for new users, new places, districts, and regions because they meet user needs and have yielded local impact.


The National Child Helpline for instance started in only six pilot districts in 2013, but now it covers the entire country of over 180 districts in less than 5 years. Both the Helpline and Child Opinion Letters have been replicated in Zanzibar, which is de facto, an independent country. Similarly, Sema Magazine now reaches the cities of Arusha, Mwanza and Zanzibar – scaling up from initially only covering Dar es salaam.


vi. Designing with Users

An example of a project we designed with users is the UNDEF funded Portal for Civic Change. The project offered civic education to rural communities’ with-access to mobile phones in seven districts in Tanzania (approximately 1,344,000 people were directly and indirectly reached). We started with getting to know the people we were designing for through conversation, observation and co-creation. Information gathered through this engagement led to building, testing and redesigning an SMS portal that effectively met their needs. This process taught us that by designing with target communities, and not for them, you can build tools and programmes that better address the specific needs and expectations of the communities who will directly interact with your programmes. We partnered with users throughout the project lifecycle, co-creating answers, and continuously gathering and incorporating communities’ feedback.


vii. Reuse and Improve

The National Child Helpline in Tanzania wanted to reuse and improve the Kenyan model of operationalization of a similar service that is, Childline Kenya. The first step was in essence entering an agreement with government. An MoU between Childline Kenya and Children Department defines roles and responsibilities between said partners. We wanted a similar model, only improved in some areas such as the organisation running the helpline may still operate other programmes as opposed to Childline Kenya whose mandate lies squarely on helpline business. We went for diversity because it would attract multiple interests and therefore funding diversity and pool.


viii. Understanding the Ecosystem

At the very beginning, we thought we understood how children service provision works from the ministries responsible for such services to frontline civil servants at village level. We were sure once a caller reached our office our role would include linking them with relevant service officials on the ground and the boxes ticked. Everybody’s happy. It turned out we were wrong.


We have since learnt that you need to dedicate time and resources to analyze the ecosystem, where you want to work to help ensure that you are addressing needs of stakeholders on both end of the service provision spectrum. It has also helped us learn where we can avoid duplicating existing efforts and where multiple partnership agreements need to be made at different levels to reach communities on the one hand and address needs of service providers on the other.


ix. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source and Open Innovation

Most of our digital campaigns use open source design software available in the market. By taking advantage of existing investments, we have been able to profile our digital work on social media with less designs hurdles and less budget as well.


Regarding data, we’ve partnered with The Tanzanian Data Lab (dLab), an open working space where data from multiple sectors and sources can be combined, processed, and shared to drive better policies and decision-making. We have therefore been trained in data literacy and analysis, focused content-area data analytics, and the development of “use cases” to showcase how data can be used to improve lives.



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