GRW Professional Associate Christina Ruhinda is Increasing Access to Legal Aid in Tanzania
By: Darcy Berglund
April 14, 2022
Christina Ruhinda is here in the United States from her home country of Tanzania as an International Hubert Humphrey Fellow with Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. The program encourages its Fellows to form professional affiliations with organizations in the U.S., and Christina wasted no time in asking Cheryl Thomas if she could be a PA for Global Rights for Women. A mutually beneficial partnership was born. Christina’s knowledge of women’s rights in Tanzania is of great value to GRW.
In Tanzania Christina serves as executive director of the Tanzanian Network of Legal Aid Providers, or TANLAP, an organization working on many fronts to increase citizens’ understanding of, and access to, the legal system. She has been recognized for her international leadership by CSO Women’s Direction Forum, the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition and Tangible Initiatives for Local Development Tanzania.
Before arriving in Minneapolis, Christina wondered if the city, the location of George Floyd’s murder, would be a safe place for a Black woman like her. That fear has disappeared with her being treated, she says, with warmth and friendliness by those she has met, and even by those she has not: Christina enjoys the custom, here, of strangers smiling at each other. She says it makes one feel better, gives one a feeling of hope.
Christina learned the importance of hope at a young age. Her father, a magistrate where they lived in Ngara—in the northwestern area of Tanzania—passed away when Christina was only 11 years old. Her mother was left with seven children to support. Using her husband’s retirement money, Christina’s mother started a small grocery business, something that not only supported seven children, but allowed them to stay in school.
But Christina’s mother did more than teach hope, and resilience, by example—she taught equality. She saw to it that her sons and daughters had an equal number of chores, showing no favoritism. Christina speaks lovingly, hand against her chest, of her mother’s helping all the children with their homework, the girls as well as the boys.
And did that homework help ever pay off for Christina Ruhinda. She always did well in school, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Laws degree from Tumaini University in Dar es Salaam, and a Master of Science degree in Leadership and Governance from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya.
Today, in Dar es Salaam, as executive director of TANLAP, Christina works on everything from fundraising to overseeing the work of legal aid providers and paralegals, a title for those who serve as liaisons between citizens and the legal system. Helping citizens to understand the laws in place to protect them, to understand their rights, is one of TANLAP’s most important roles. When she returns to Tanzania, she wants to continue working with Global Rights for Women to address gaps in the law for women experiencing harassment or abuse.
Christina is often chosen to speak at national , regional forums and at international gatherings; she volunteered to give closing remarks at a Global Leadership Forum in Washington DC, in October 2021. She is also a member of a long list of civil societies organizations , youth and women’s rights organizations. She loves helping the Girls Guides Association, she explains, as it teaches girls to be brave, independent, and to work hard.
In Christina’s personal life, there is an echo of her mother’s: Christina lost her husband to illness 6 years ago, her two daughters only 4 and 7 at the time. The daughters, now 10 and 13, are in boarding school in Tanzania, one hoping to become a pediatrician, the other a professor of math. Christina takes great delight in showing a video of the girls, on their visit to Minnesota this winter, learning culture and different activities including to make snow angels with Janet Walsh, director of the international fellows program and Global Rights for Women board member.
Christina exudes gratitude. She is grateful for an attentive, even-handed mother who showed strength in loss; for her education; for her career in Legal Aid back home in Tanzania; for her daughters and their dreams; and for the U.S. State Department Fellowship that has brought her so many opportunities. Christina Ruhinda embraces new opportunities with intelligence and gusto, and Global Rights for Women is thrilled to have her join us as a professional associate as she continues her global leadership making life better for women and girls in Tanzania and beyond.