A partnership of 56 non-governmental organizations in the country known as the Tanzania Gender in Education Initiative (TGEI) recently met in Morogoro to brainstorm on the rights of girls and women in a bid to contribute recommendations to the new constitution. The organization which is committed towards narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2015 observed that various parts of the law need fine tuning.
A partnership of 56 organizations in the country called Tanzania Gender in Education Initiative (TGEI) which met in Morogoro recently to deliberate on the rights of girls and women observed that often, girls and women have found themselves victims of exploitation and denial of so many rights simply because they are born the way they are. For instance, in most cultures, women and girls have no right to own land with the land laws giving priority to traditions and cultures in that regard.
There are cases where widows have been kicked out of the land once owned by the spouse, while daughters have turned into refugees in their own country simply because the traditions and customs of their tribe have been unfriendly to them.
Subsequently, the Tanzania Gender in Education Initiative (TGEI) decided to convene a session to discuss over what they felt ought to be incorporated in the constitution to ensure that the situation of this vulnerable group is given priority.
Among the harmful traditions identified were the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriage and denial to own property especially land left by immediate family members.
Perhaps what was sad was learning that there are at present several laws which are contrary to the current constitution. This gives yet more reasons to demand for a stronger piece of legislature that will never allow that.
Presenting a topic on girls rights to education and contributions on the ongoing constitution review, a legal officer from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Laetitia Petro said the current constitution identified an adult as a person of 18 no wonder because it gave the mandate for such a person to vote. However, she said the Marriage Act endorsed marriage to a girl of under 14.
“The constitution is the mother law whereby each law of the country must go concurrently with it. However, currently, there are some of the laws like the Marriage Act which are contradictory to not only the constitution but with also the Law of the Child Act. We need a new constitution that will protect girls and women through a clear mechanism that will scrap all the bad laws from the country books,” said Laetitia.
Such laws have made things for a girl in the country even harder as whenever they go to court, the Law of the Marriage Act may be superior forcing a child who should have been in school to become a wife.
The Marriage Act has vested so many powers to parents and with the African culture of respect towards the elders, most Tanzania girls have found themselves getting into a life that they did not want.
The law allows a girl of 14 to marry with the consent of the parent, something those who know are taking advantage of.
Contributing to the discussion, Laurent Sabuni called upon the need for gender activists to ensure they fought for the girls’ rights to be incorporated in the new constitution due to the group being vulnerable to mistreatment.
Catherine Sekwao from FUDEA mentioned one of the outdated traditions as bride price saying it was an attributing factor to early marriage as more often greedy parents married off their girls simply because they wanted to become rich.
“Why should one pay for the girl while as the bride herself never earns anything from the so called bride price. This is one of the outdated traditions that ought to go,” said Sekwao.
TGEI wants the new constitution to incorporate the right to work for a girl and woman, equal opportunity to economic and social rights as well as to incorporate the right to health for a girl child in its bills of rights.
They furthermore demand that the new constitution should specify an age where a girl child can get married as 18 while also making sure that it incorporates the right to own property especially land for a girl child and a woman.
TGEI is a partnership of 56 organizations in the country committed towards narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2015, while at the same time making sure that all girls and boys have equal access to free education.
The network is coordinated by FAWETZ, an organization striving to ensure equal access to education by both girls and boys.
Let us hope that those working to collect views will include these rights in the constitution as at the end of the day, a woman is a mother of all societies in the world and each woman comes from a girl. Let the new constitution not leave them behind. (firstname.lastname@example.org).