Tanzania’s leadership is struggling to promote gender equality to meet the requirements of the Millennium Development Goals. Success of the MDG number 3 and target number 4 are all intended to be portrayed by four major indicators. The goal is to promote gender equality and empower women, while the target is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 and in all levels of education not later than 2015.
The four indicators are: Ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education to be equal as well as ratio of literate females to males among 15 – 24 years. Two other indicators are:- share of women in wage employment in the non agricultural sector, to be the same as that of men and proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament to be 50%.
Gender equality can simply be preached and lived; enrolment of children in pre and primary schools has always been done without discrimination among children of both sexes in our country. Nevertheless, the ratio has never been as required.
In 2007, the number of boys enrolled was 4,215,171 while that of girls was 4,101,754. Moreover pregnancy further lowered the number of girls by raising the number of girls’ school drop-out. The men responsible with the pregnancies have been going unpunished, even though the law states that 30 years’ imprisonment is what they deserve for so doing.
What happens is that, a parent who happens to sue a man for impregnating his/her daughter is required to go to court. Going to court takes time, and sometimes bus fare where the court is some distance away. The magistrate may postpone the case three our four times, leaving the parent tired and broke. Without bus fare, the parent will not be able to report again to the court.
Without complainant, the magistrate will not be able to go on with the case. So the accused walks away to ply his trade. Postponement of such cases may be intentional, although some magistrates may give excuses which cannot be denied as genuine.
In some communities, girls are given into marriage at a young age, sometimes as young as 12 or 13 years. Although the law says that any person under 13 years is a child and children are not given into marriage, the same law says that a girl of 14 can be given into marriage at the consent of the parents.
Even if this law is amended, to prohibit such girls of tender age to be given into marriage, yet some culprits will break that law and the principle will again protect such law-breakers; cases will be postponed till complainants lose hope and decide to work in their fields instead of wasting time by going to court where justice is not expected to be dispensed. Again none will be convicted.
The number three indicator which is equal share of women in wage employment in the non agricultural sector cannot be implemented without adequate education being considered. It will not be proper to pick a woman from the streets and employ her in an office, just to balance the number of women against that of men in offices.
The same applies to indicator number four. The proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament will depend on the academic qualifications of the women. When women candidates cannot compete with men academically, voters may vote for them at their peril. Even the president may nominate some of the kind, but such members of parliament will be a burden to the house.
These are only challenges rooted from education. There are more when we consider other aspects. For example, when empowering of women is being considered, land ownership should not be excluded. However, land is acquired through inheritance or acquisition, which is by paying money to buy it. Inheritance can be given by parents to their children. Parents themselves give away their possessions to children according to certain criteria. In some societies, a girl who marries becomes part of the husband’s family. Some parents do not consider such daughters in their wills.
In case they die, what they will inherit will be the deceased mothers’ clothes and maybe jewelry (unfortunately very few women in our culture have jewelry) but not land. Some fathers bequest their possessions to children after weighing what such children are worth. A daughter who had had no income, who had not brought even a half kilogramme of sugar to her father is not likely to get something valuable from such a father, who is the sole owner of land in the family.
As in the case of acquisition, one has to pay money to buy land. A woman who had had no learning, no employment will not be able to buy land. Moreover, money lenders need security for their money. Without security, an ordinary woman is not likely to get a loan from our banks. Some money-lenders who have more lax rules are those who take loans from our banks and lend it in small amounts to their customers, especially “mama-lishes”, who cannot make any development because the rates of interest are high. The lenders have to charge much to pay back their creditors and leave some to pay for their own survival.
In order to meet the MDGs requirements, education obstacles to girls must be dealt with accordingly. The law intended to safeguard children (Education law 25/1978) must be in operation. The Swahili language newspaper, Uhuru of November 20, 2006 reported that 47 girls failed to complete standard seven in Kilombero district because they got pregnant and some of the men responsible with the malady had been dealt with, but others were living with the girls as their wives.
This was an Area Commissioner’s report to his senior, the Regional commissioner. One wonders why these others were given a green light, to live with the pregnant pupils, while the law states plainly that they should be punished.