THE British government has praised Tanzania for making remarkable progress in addressing gender inequality, particularly in tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country.
However, the British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Ms Sarah Cooke, has noted that despite these achievements, women in Tanzania still face many challenges including long working hours, less education as well as difficulty in accessing resources such as land.
The envoy made these remarks when presiding over the recent celebrations to mark the International Women’s Day. The envoy is right. Indeed, Most women workers in Tanzania face more embarrassments than meets the eye. Women who receive the lowest wages are mainly those in domestic service.
Other women who earn an absolute pittance work in bars, guest houses, hotels, shops and in the agriculture sector. Here, they get anything between 50,000/- and 100,000/- a month. Incredibly, some of these women are the bread winners for their families.
Although there are improvements in the current laws and policies, the reality has not helped working women.
Housewives do not fair any better in terms of welfare and legal protection. A recent survey has shown that gender based violence is escalating with pronounced cases occurring in Kagera, Mara, Mwanza and Kigoma. In most cases it is the wives who fall victim to the rage of husbands who fail to control their emotions.
Two years ago women in rural Tanzania told the Constitutional Review Commission that the envisaged constitution should have provisions that protect them from gender based violence, especially the cruelty that emanates from their “cruel husbands.
” The women complained (nearly in each region) that their husbands often batter them and subject them to untold suffering. Over and above this social misdemeanor, it is these same women who slog it out in family farms to make ends meet while their men laze around.
The other anomaly in this regard is the predicament girls face. Too many girls either miss education completely or are forced to drop out of school by their parents or by unfriendly educational circumstances including lack of toilets or water in some schools.
In some districts parents treat education as a triviality. So, some girls are pulled out of schools so they help out in household chores or get married, for a dowry. In the process some brilliant academic brains are lost – in most cases, forever.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child says in Article 11 that: “special measures must be taken in respect of female, gifted and disadvantaged children to ensure equal access to education for all sections of the community.
The Charter, to which Tanzania is a signatory, insists that: Such education should also promote the child’s talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.” The child should also be prepared for responsible life.” This call should be heeded.