WOMEN, just like any other section of the population in the country have all the legal, basic and moral rights to participate in any economic activity to eke out a living without any form of discrimination
. Not going by the Human Rights per se, but narrow it to Tanzania, the law of the land will still stipulate and prohibit gender related discriminations.
To reinforce on this, the Tanzanian government has enacted legislations and formulated policies or regulations which spell equal opportunities for both women and men, including the Women and Gender Development Policy of 2000.
Being a signatory of the international instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the country ensures that rights of women are fully followed and protected.
Without any element of doubt, take a walk in the countryside and Urban areas and you will see majority of the women population tied and are engaged in various informal business outlets for their families, despite clandestine challenges they may be facing including sexual harassment and ill-treatments in the society.
Addressing this, the government in collaboration with various stakeholders have taken different steps and measures to improve business atmosphere, where many women find themselves being guarded by new guidelines to end gender violence adopted by markets which impose stiff penalties to perpetrators.
Expounding, the markets which have benefited from the programme and recorded a decrease on cases related to gender violence include Tabata Muslimu, Kisutu, Feri, Gezaulole, Buguruni and Stereo in Dar es Salaam Manager in charge of markets in Temeke Municipality, Mr Johnson Makalanga said various efforts have been undertaken to provide public education on women’s rights, besides introduction of high penalties to perpetrators of violence against women and this has instilled women’s dignity, as part of his routine work.
The new guidelines to end violence against women were developed by a nongovernmental organisation Equality for Growth in collaboration with the police, the market officials and vendors.
“The new guidelines require a perpetrator to pay between 50,000/- and 300,000/- as fine depending on the offence committed… this has caused some traders alleged to be abusing female traders and customers to keep off for fear of being taken to legal task,” Mr Makalanga pointed out.
He said that the initiatives have yielded positive results as the number of cases related to women violence have drastically dropped in comparison to the previous years.
“In the past, cases related to gender violence were many, up to 60 cases per year, but to date there is a drastic drop, whereby in the past one year no any case has been reported to my office,” he added.
He said female traders can carry out their businesses effectively and compete with their male counterparts and operate in an environment that is totally free from any form of violence to women and this increases their income and in turn reduces poverty in their households.
His school of thought may be inclined on the Sustainable Development Goal No: 5 that requires countries to adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, at all levels and also to end all forms of discriminations against women and girls, hence the undertaken initiatives will help in the attainment of this goal.
In pursuit of that, Joanita Katunzi a female trader at Stereo Market in Temeke District narrated how before 2015, women at her market were doing their businesses in unfriendly environment.
“Women here were being verbally abused or sexually assaulted including beatings, which were part and parcel of our lives… women were also denied payments for the goods or services they provided to male traders and this behaviour adversely affected our economy,” Ms Katunzi said.
She equally hinted that occupying a space for business was something that was to be decided by one’s sex and it was easier for male traders to acquire/allocated spaces fast enough in comparison to their female counterparts.
On leadership, she said women didn’t dare to contest for any post because of male dominance and even the market constitution didn’t provide opportunity for women to hold any posts.
Ms Katunzi, however, noted that a special campaign conducted to create public awareness on women’s rights and the introduction of the hefty fines up to 300,000/- made the perpetrators to give women a relief.
Ms Katunzi, who is currently the chairperson of the market committee responsible for cleanliness and safety of traders’ goods, added that a number of women are currently proceeding well with their businesses there and expressed optimism, saying that many have also shown interest to contest in various market leadership posts.
Another trader, Jescar Kamala, who has been selling vegetables at the market for eight years, said that the society in general needs to change its perception towards women.
Ms Kamala said women can largely contribute to the country’s development if the government will also institute measures to eliminate hurdles, towards their full participation in the country’s economy.
“I have been doing this business for eight years now, I came across a number of challenges including abuse and assaults by male traders, but I had no option rather than struggle to earn income for my family,” she said.
She added that the business environment at the market has improved and women are now freely conducting their businesses without fear of being assaulted or abused.
“The improvements on women treatment in the markets have been successful through public education on women’s rights and introduction of bylaws with stiff penalties to protect female traders in the markets,” Ms Kamala said.
She said the legal protection granted to women has increased their confidence to conduct businesses and even take part in various positions in market leadership.
Ms Kamala called upon fellow women to focus on improving their businesses so as to reduce dependence on their families, adding that elimination of violence against them in market places, has opened a new chapter for the womenfolk to expand their business.
Legal Community Supporter at Stereo Market, Robert Kalavila, said that gender violence cases have also dropped to a large extent, where in this year alone, five cases have been resolved amicably while two were taken to police.
Mr Kalavila said that the drop in cases has been due to women awareness of their rights and readiness to report any acts of violence against them to the market leadership.
“Previously, it was difficult for women to report sexual assaults or talk about sexual extortions, but to date the situation has changed after they recognized their rights,” he added.
He insisted that the bylaws have contributed a lot in minimizing violence acts against women, because there were some perpetrators who ran away from the markets after failing to pay fines for fear of being taken to Court.
He added that the market has gone further to amend its constitution to allow more women to participate in market leaderships.
A trader at Buguruni Market, Magdalena Kagina, who has been at the market for five years, proposed that public education on women’s right should continue in order to build a society that respects and values women’s contributions in all spheres of life.
“Market places are visited by people with different tribes, traditions and customs thus if this public education is given continuously, it will help traders with such behaviours to change,” Ms Kagina said.
Ms Kagina noted that she managed to survive in her business because she was always been serious and didn’t allow undisciplined people to temper with her rights.
Another trader at Buguruni Market Aisha Selemani said that female traders like their male counterparts have the right to exercise their economic rights, without being discriminated because they are all struggling to improve their livelihood.
“I am a single parent, I don’t depend on anybody to take care of my families… abuse and assaults by male traders…this affects our income very much and sometime some women have thought of dropping out of the business,” she said.
Ms Selemeni commended the government for efforts taken to eliminate such acts in market places, noting that women in any market place carry out their businesses without fear of being assaulted by their male traders.
Buguruni Market Secretary, Furahisha Kambi admitted that cases related to violence against women have dropped at her market place and noted that not even a single case has ever been reported since a nongovernmental organization- Equality for Growth, winded up its campaign there last year with the theme-‘Give Payment not Abuse.’
She said heavy penalties have also helped a lot in reducing the evil acts because, where some perpetrators of gender violence have been forced to run away from the market, after failing to pay the fines.
“We are proceeding with the programme of educating traders on women’s rights and ensuring that the bylaws are enforced so as to eliminate such acts of violence which are also against human rights,” she said.
A male trader at Mchikichini Market, Kitwana Hassan who sells onions said that male traders with the habit of abusing or assaulting women have also legal actions taken against them.
Mr Hassan said that such acts have declined after the market adopted new guidelines to end gender violence with heavy penalties and this has restored discipline in the market.
According to his views, women like men have the right to conduct businesses in market places without being discriminated because the areas are not meant for men only.
“Sometimes women’s were being discriminated due to lack of awareness of their rights, but to date women are becoming so powerful in terms of businesses and in defending for their rights and that has scared men with the behaviour to quit,” he said.
Equality for Growth Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Shaban Rulimbiye, said the special campaign dubbed ‘Give Payment not Abuse’ which started in 2015 and completed its work last year yielded positive results by reducing the number of gender violence in markets by 81 percent.
The camping was funded by United Nations Trust Fund-to end violence against women.
Mr Rulimbiye said that a survey conducted by his organisation before embarking on the campaign found 96.6 per cent of violence against women traders in place, with sexual harassment being the leading followed by economic violence.
This was done after realising that the government has already set out strategic plans to control gender violence including establishing Gender Desks in all Police Stations.
He said the organisation trained some traders to become legal community supporters and they in turn trained others on how to prepare referrals for cases which have failed to be resolved at the market level and be taken to Police and later to the court.
“This campaign targeted 12,000 traders (women and men) but it exceeded to 18,000 traders at Tabata Muslimu, Kisutu, Feri, Gezaulole, Buguruni and Stereo in Dar es Salaam,” he said.
He noted that genderbased violence cases which were reported during the project were 2,353 where 82 were taken to police.
Mr Rulimbiye, however, noted that after the EfG campaign, his organisation conducted another survey and found out that 92 percent of women in market places were free to conduct their businesses and 70 percent contested for various market leadership posts, 83 were free to make decision on various issues, while 91 were free to access anti- gender violence services.
He said that women traders in informal sectors particularly in market places were being protected by the bylaws stipulated in the country’s Constitution.
“The Ilala Municipality bylaws which were approved in 2015 have a gender section which has helped a lot in fight against violence against women.
Ilala Municipal Public Relations Officer, Ms Tabu Shaibu, said that the number of policies and legislations in the country provide a wide range of opportunities for women to engage in economic development activities.
“Ilala Municipality has a Gender Policy 2009 and this was formulated from the national Gender Policy which indicates how women can exploit available opportunities for their development,” Ms Shaibu said.
She noted that even in allocation of business spaces the policy requires the process to be gender sensitive. Ms Shaibu said that the national Economic Empowerment Policy also provides an opportunity for women to participate in all economic opportunities even in markets.
She added that the National Strategic Plan to end all forms of violence against women and children in the country which was launched last year emphasizes the actions needed for both preventing and responding to violence and recognizes that investing in violence prevention initiatives has a positive impact on inclusive growth “All the legislations requirements are being considered on the formation of municipal policies and bylaws,” Ms Shaibu said.