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Much more can be done to empower women

Previously this was not the case, norms and traditions barred women from owning land. Daughters were not allowed to inherit land that belonged to the family because families felt that once a girl got married she no longer needed the land as she became a property of her husband. If a husband died the man’s family would take over his property, including land in pretext of taking care of the property on behalf of the orphans, thereby leaving the widow destitute and in despair.

Women have suffered and some still suffer abuse from husbands and other male members of society. This month, women
celebrated International Women’s Day, on 8th every year. Women from all walks of life, different organisations and institutions in Dar es Salaam joined million others around the world to mark the day.

In his speech on that particular day, the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Said Meck Sadick said women can now own and inherit land, which will go a long way to assist women in acquiring financial assistance to set up income generating projects. Mr Sadick who was the guest of honour at the event, said land is an important asset needed for securing loans from banks and it acts as collateral in business deals thereby boosting women’s economic status.

“Women still suffer from different forms of abuse despite their enormous contribution to the nation’s economy. However the government is working to correct this. New laws are more gender balanced than before,” he stated. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a major stumbling block to women’s development and contribution to the economy in the country. A survey called for by the then United Nations Deputy Secretary General Dr Asha-Rose Migiro in August 2011 revealed that GBV among children in the country was alarming, especially in Zanzibar.

It revealed that over 70 per cent of Tanzanian children, boys and girls have been beaten, flogged or whipped during their childhood. The situation is compounded by the fact that people are taught to accept and tolerate such forms of violence by culture and tradition. The culture of suffering in silence prevents people from intervening and talking about the vice. In addressing the issue, GBV desks have been set up at police stations where women and children can now be listened to with respect and in privacy. Those with severe cases are taken to safe houses, where they can be cared for until they are well enough.

Severely battered women who choose to leave their husbands are given start up capital for income generating projects so as to be economically independent. The Dar es Salaam RC Mr Sadick said the celebrations to mark the World Women’s Day are not about having fun but to evaluate the process of liberating women and ensuring that they participate fully in building the nation. “We are evaluating where we have been, where we are and where we are going, so that we can put more efforts where it’s needed,” he said.

He said the World Women’s Day international theme “Connecting girls inspiring development” calls for availing equal opportunities for both girls and boys, in all areas including education. Since time in immemorial, girls cover most of the domestic chores including fetching water, collecting firewood and washing utensils. Mr Sadick said if girls were treated exactly as boys, they would excel in school.

He promised to focus on building more boarding schools for girls, to enable more girls study with less interruption. “At home, the girl child is asked to help out with domestic work, while the boy child has all the time to study,” he explained. The RC called for gender activists to focus their efforts on empowering women in rural areas. He said despite participating in building the nation’s economy through agriculture and various other economic activities, a number of hard working women are not economically independent due to cultural norms, lack of education that leads to total dependency.

The Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children Ms Sophia Simba said women are good business people, who put all their efforts and determination in what they choose to do. She said rural women should be provided with facilities such as farm implements to enable them increase their production and hence improve their lives.

In her message to the RC, Ms Wanne Yusuf Msekalale from Kinondoni Municipal said the Women Day celebrations are meant to make the public aware of women’s rights. She noted that it is also to bring awareness and make people understand the roles of girls in the country’s development.



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