Back to Forum

Sr. Wilhelmina Uhai Tunu’s Report on her Dissertation

It is now one and a half months since I graduated after my doctoral studies. During my enrollment as a doctoral student, I had a strong desire and determination to pursue my studies and I was confident that I would succeed because of the financial, material and moral support accorded to me. I am delighted to express my sincere gratitude to the entire committee for Scholarship Programme of the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church and indeed, to all members of CTEWC, for training me and other African Women in theological ethics. I am particularly indebted to Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, Elias Opongo, Linda Hogan, James Keenan, and other benefactors whose love and sacrifices availed financial and material support for me to this end. I also thank Ms. Carol Mwangi who availed herself tirelessly to coordinate my financial needs. I thank my superiors for giving me the opportunity to pursue my studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

Four years of doctoral studies have been a moment of transformation. Indeed I look different, I have become different and I am behaving differently. The process of acquiring knowledge on theological ethics has excelled me to act in the present moment in order to create a better future where I will form and touch hearts, inform minds and transform lives of people.  

On the 13th October 2016, I presented the summary of my PhD Dissertation titled: The Socio-Moral Principle of Human Dignity: A New Paradigm for Alleviating Poverty in Same Catholic Diocese, Tanzania. Human dignity is the main orientation essential for organizing society for peaceful co-existence and for the full development of the human person and of the society at large. I proposed this socio-moral principle of human dignity as a new paradigm for alleviating poverty. Poverty is a major threat to human life, socio-economic and moral development of people today. Perceived as a lack of basic resources for human survival, it dishonours the human person who, according to Christian anthropology, is created in the image and likeness of God.  It disrupts the community relations thus; it is primarily a human and moral problem. Despite the fact that the world has undergone great technological advancement, many people still suffer the humiliation of material poverty. Government, Non-Governmental and Faith based organizations have tried to reduce it, but it continues to victimize and marginalize people from active participation in the decision making processes in the community.

The main argument in this dissertation is that understanding the nature of poverty in the African context contributes to promotion of human dignity. Eliminating catalysts of poverty including; illiteracy and low income, alcoholism, laziness, imposed fear and jealousy due to superstition requires teaching people to change their behaviour and work for the common good. Equally, rejection of structures that oppress and discriminate the poor helps to promote human dignity and alleviate poverty. Worthless relationships rooted in cultural, political and economic systems tend to dehumanize people. Indeed, such structures must be reformed beginning from conversion of individual mindset.

Provision of empowerment through capacity building avails to people various opportunities to realize what they value and live a life of sincere choice. In this fact, I recommended that the government has a great role in alleviating poverty by ensuring integral development of its citizens. Development is achieved when the rights of all people are defended and protected. Through the principle of subsidiarity, the State should be responsible to intervene actively in the economic life of the nation for the welfare of the society by making sure that human dignity is promoted. Likewise, there is need to improve the system of governance to enable strong economic performance and training citizens on poverty alleviation through civic education.

I also concentrated on the role of the Church in poverty alleviation. The prophetic role of the Church in alleviating poverty is significant. I proposed a model of the Church as herald of good news to be a relevant element in poverty alleviation. Through this model, the Church, as voice of the voiceless, will enlighten all people on strategies to alleviate poverty.  Such strategies include an appeal to behavioral change through education, evangelization through family catechesis, conscientization through seminars and workshops, spiritual transformation and accompaniment, establishment of youth associations, promotion of a self-reliant spirit, and enhancing transformative education.

Personalistic approach to human person is an ethical model I proposed. We need to measure every anti-poverty initiative with the human person who is the center of integral development which is authentic and all-inclusive. This kind of development which aims at the human success and elevation of each person in all dimensions of development is what we need to implement to enable the poor people to reclaim their dignity.

I also suggested the role of NGOs’ in ensuring impartial community collaboration and involvement. NGOs ought to guarantee support to facilitate the growth of projects. To this end, collaboration of all people in alleviating poverty is essential, right from the family level to the whole society. The family has also to play its role in reclaiming traditional African values (respect, hard work, solidarity, hospitality) and promoting harmonious co-existence. The role of Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS) in encouraging a culture of saving to reduce income vulnerability among the people of Same Catholic Diocese is highly recommendable.  

My dissertation is thus; a wakeup call to the Church to embrace her prophetic social mission to denounce the evil of poverty in the society, enhance solidarity, improve the dignity and lives of the people as well as promote integral human development. It is also a wakeup call to the government to safeguard and improve the life of all people especially the poor.

After my public defence I graduated on 28th October 2016. I am thankful to God for the significant and wonderful educational achievement. As I continue to deliver transformative education to the Church and society, I feel a sense of hope because as a transformed person I can now stand as a champion of moral values to transform the society. May God’s Wisdom and Grace guide all CTEWC members and all who have assisted me to reach this far.