TANZANIA: From Magomeni To Miami, Violence Thrives

It is not uncommon to hear a woman screaming in the middle of the night in many of our neighbourhoods. Yet no one will ever go to the rescue of the lonely voice.

Perhaps she is being beaten up just because she did not open the door in time for her husband who is just returning home at 3.00 a.m. drunk.

That is their business; we are used to it. Not so? In fact, we even comfort ourselves that it might be safer not to `interfere`.

The International Women`s Day is observed every 8th of March each year but this year`s theme was aimed at getting all of us to raise our collective voices against violence on our mothers and sisters. (Perhaps we should appropriately have screamed together in the dead of the night? Just a thought…)

On this day, women worldwide join their voices to fight gender inequalities of which they mainly are victims.

Violence against women prevails everywhere - from the walls of Masaki to the shacks of Magomeni. Rihanna, the American R&B superstar has recently brought the discussion back about rich wives (or girlfriends) who are battered by their spouses.

Her boyfriend Chris Brown - also a superstar has been booked for battering her on the night before the Oscars. Tina Turner was there long before her. It is not a poor woman`s curse, dear reader. It is a woman’s curse. Period.

``Violence against women persists worldwide, occurring in every region, country, culture and cutting across income, class, race and ethnicity.

It impedes development and prevents women and girls from enjoying their human rights and fundamental freedoms,`` an overview from the UN Tanzania office stated.

Observing all this women suffering in the world, the United Nations sat down and gazetted the International Women`s Day in 1975.

This year in Tanzania, it started with the gender conference on March 7, organised by the Youth of the United Nations Association (YUNA) and UN Clubs Tanzania Network.

The conference was held at the Karimjee hall after a demonstration at the Mnazi Moja grounds to Karimjee.

The conference involved mainly Tanzanian youth and other senior people like the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC)`s head, Eshila Maravanyika, European Commission Chairperson Tim Clarke and the guest of honor Patric Tsere, who is the Ilala District Commission.

``Violence against women and girls is not a woman`s issue, it is an issue that concerns and diminishes us all,`` said Maravanyika in a speech when opening the conference.

She said that women violence in Tanzania is highly observed by the UN and that human trafficking, child marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual violence are the things involved when talking of women violence.

She said involving the youth in that conference meant a lot. ``We believe that the youth can make good agents to fight women violence, most of them are not yet marriage and this will help them to build families which have a better understanding and knowledge on gender issues,`` she explained.

``We all know that some women`s behaviours lead to their violence,`` said Tsere the Ilala DC in response to a question from a participant who had wanted to know if some women`s behavior could be one of the reasons that lead to gender violence.

Tsere said that here In Tanzania, many marriages get problems as a result of interference from sisters in law.

``Most of women do interfere in the marriages of their brothers, gossiping about their brother`s wife which in the end results into this man looking for a concubine and we all know the impact of this is always HIV/Aids,`` he explained.

UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, in his speech which was sent all over the world, links women violence to the spread of HIV/Aids.

``Violence against women is also linked to the spread of HIV/Aids, in some countries, as many as one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or other wise abused in her lifetime,`` reads his speech in part.

Studies on violence against women show there is compelling evidence that violence against women is severe and pervasive through out the world.

Surveys on violence against women conducted in at least 71 countries show that a significant proportion of women suffer physical, sexual or psychological violence.

The conference at Karimjee hall which involved question and answer sessions had different experts who gave their overviews of the issue in Tanzania.

Dr Dustan Bishanga was one of the presenters who shared a lot with the participants. He gave the overview on the role of men in ending violence against women and preventing HIV/Aids.

``Being the heads of families, men play a big role in women violence and the spread of HIV/Aids,`` said Dr Bishanga in his presentation.

He cites masculinity as being the main factors for the spread of HIV in Tanzania because most women are being forced into unprotected sex either with their partners or even husbands. ``I did a study and found that in every three women one has been sexually harassed by their partner,`` he said.

Some traditions like genital mutilation are said to be likely to spread this fatal disease to more women than it does to men.

Dr Bishanga reminded women that; ``they should be in the front line to address their situation in public so that everybody could feel the pinch,`` he said while responding to a question by Rhoda Mwamnyange, a participant from the International Labour Organisation-Tanzania who wanted to know how women could get away from the cultural factors which affect them.

Elica Mapunda, Assistant Commissioner of the Tanzania Police Force Tanzania Female Police Network said the police sector is one office which is very much affected by HIV/Aids.

``As we mark women’s day, we should be aware of the sectors which are highly affected by women violence which eventually leads to HIV/Aids. The police force is very much affected and we call for every one to join us to fight this,`` she said.

Although the conference took place the 7th of March, it played a big role in perpetuating the war against women violence.

Every body was dressed in a T-shirt with words shouting ‘Say NO to Gender Violence`, with young people in full participation.

Arma Ayesh from YUNA who talked about the cultural variances which in one way or another affects many women in the world.

``Things like early marriages, bride price abuse, polygamy, wife inheritance and widow cleansing cause women violence. In Tanzania for a woman to feel she is a woman a man has to pay a very big bride price,`` she says.

UN system in Tanzania supports national efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls and to advance women`s empowerment and gender equality and reproductive health rights.

With all these efforts from the government and non-governmental organisations to diminish women violence, there are still elements of violence to this group of people in Tanzania.

The day to day cases of women rape, early marriages in some tribes and gender mutilation which is still a big problem in many societies are the things that get considered on Women’s day.

``Women experience sexual harassment through out their lives. Between 40-50 percent of women in the European Union reported some form of sexual harassment in the work place, in Malawi, 50 percent of school girls` surveyed reported sexual harassment at school,`` says the UN report on women violence in the world.

The road to end women violence is still long. Women themselves should gain confidence to express their problems without forgetting to involve men.


AUTHOR: Arka Mayombo

URL: Click here

DATE: 16/03/2009

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