Knowing Your Rights is Something, But Not Enough: Exploring Collective Advocacy and Rights to Treatment and Services for People Living with HIV in Tanzania


  • Anna Mdee University of Leeds/Overseas Development Institute
  • Lisa Thorley Independent Researcher



advocacy, accountability, PLWHIV, right-based approach, Tanzania


Citizen and collective advocacy is often regarded as a critical way to hold governments to account for the services they are expected to deliver and combat the marginalisation of certain groups. This article presents a qualitative analysis of the application of a “rightsbased” and advocacy approach as a means for People Living with HIV (PLWHIV) to claim their legislative rights to basic services such as education, and combat behaviour that is stigmatising. Data was obtained from a project in Northern Tanzania that works with more than 40 self-help groups to empower them to claim their rights as stipulated in the 2008 HIV/AIDS Act. The findings suggest that knowing one’s rights does seem to enable groups to start asking questions about their entitlements to services. However, it is not enough for one to simply know their rights when their actions and responses are fundamentally limited by lack of resource and power, vague legislative commitments and weak local institutional capacity to respond. These findings have implications for the many social policy initiatives, which seek to use citizen or group-based advocacy to address discrimination or poor public service delivery.


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How to Cite

Mdee, Anna, and Lisa Thorley. 2017. “Knowing Your Rights Is Something, But Not Enough: Exploring Collective Advocacy and Rights to Treatment and Services for People Living With HIV in Tanzania”. Africanus: Journal of Development Studies 46 (2):40-56.



Received 2017-01-18
Accepted 2017-07-11
Published 2017-10-26