This article focuses on the issue of maternal mortality in Tanzania from a human rights perspective. It deals with the findings of a study conducted in 2008, which examined the role of civil society actors in framing and claiming rights. During the research process, qualitative interviews were carried out with non-governmental organizations and focus group discussions were held with rural women in Tanzania. A key thrust of the research was to examine how reproductive rights are translated into the local context and how they are in turn used by civil society actors.
The author argues that the way in which rights are framed with respect to the issue of maternal mortality also informs the way in which rights claims are made. A distinction was found in the research between those organisations that take a ‘social service approach’ to human rights promotion and those that take a ‘human rights advocacy approach’ (Merry 2006a: 138). Although both approaches converge in important ways, the author concludes that the chosen approach influences the way in which organisations’ work is carried out and their relationships with other actors.