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Changing the road safety narrative in Tanzania

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator has seen through decades of experience that one key metric in campaign success is shifting the media environment to create an environment that enables policy change. When it comes to road safety, default media coverage is usually centered around a road crash, with details limited to a specific incident, like what happened and how many were killed or injured. For coalitions working to advance road safety legislation, a critical step is to conduct media advocacy that shifts news coverage away from the cause of effect of a single crash and toward comprehensive solutions, such as policy change, that can save lives.

In Tanzania, road crashes and deaths are devastatingly common, and prior media coverage tended to sensationalize gory pictures and casualty counts. A coalition of diverse civil society organizations, which includes attorneys, media advocates, road safety ambassadors and disability rights groups, used grants from the Global Road Safety Partnership to advance legislative fixes to an outdated road safety law that will reduce crashes and save lives.

Coalition members, including the Tanzania Women’s Media Foundation, worked to educate journalists and editors by providing data and information about systemic changes, including amendments to the country’s Road Traffic Act, that could prevent crashes before they occur. The Tanzanian coalition held events, workshops and press conferences focusing on risk factors, such as drunken driving and use of seat belts, and saw in-depth media coverage on why those factors needed to be addressed with legislative changes to save lives.

As a result of their efforts, picking up the newspaper in Tanzania today is a different experience than it was just a few years ago. Now, in-depth, comprehensive, policy-focused coverage of road safety is common to see in the headlines, and coverage goes well beyond just the latest deadly crash. Newspapers such as the Guardian (Tanzania), Tanzania Daima and Majira showcase some examples of the coalition’s work to change the media environment and open the door to legislative change.