Such rights include the right to acquire, administer, enjoy and dispose of and inherit property, including property acquired during marriage.
However, that has not been the case in Tanzania, where many women have no equal right with men in acquiring land as directed in the declaration.
Speaking with the Guardian recently in an interview at Ifiga village, Ijombe ward in Mbeya Rural district, secretary of a knowledge centre known as TIGUSHE, Flora Mathias Mlowezi, said under customary law and through customary practices and beliefs, women were discriminated against in terms of control of clan land as well as in inheritance rights.
She argued that the main issue with regard to women and land was their lack of space to make decisions regarding the fruits of their labour. She elaborated that although women and their children were the main producers, the one who has control over the disposal and use of land were men.
As a result of the liberalization of the economy, men were busy selling land and in some cases after selling the family land, they migrated to urban areas to look for work in the informal sector.
“This is exactly what is happening in some parts of Tanzania as land progressively gains economic value, men sell it for a number of reasons, mainly poverty, in exclusion of their spouses,” she noted.
However, she said the intervention of TGNP Mtandao has enlighten most women across the country, including the TIGUSHE group of women in Mbeya Rural district, to know and fight for their rights in owning land and in vying for leadership posts from the grass roots to the nation level.
is a feminist organization that aims at promoting a transformed society that upholds the principles of social justice, equity and equality through the strengthening of the transformative feminist movement.
TGNP’s model focuses on transformative feminist conceptual framework and ideology which challenges patriarchy and neo-liberalism.
TGNP, in their report (TGNP 2013) explains that total lack of assets for women highly increases their vulnerability to all sorts of abuse. The process of making women assetless ranges from lack of inheritance rights under customary law to a legal framework that denies women the right to own land and thus continuously marginalizes them.
Women, being the main producers, should ideally have a say in how land is disposed of, but both the customary tenure and the tenure governed by legal framework ignores this role.
“This issue of not giving women a voice in land ownership was not addressed very well in the Land Law of 1999 and it still haunts this sector,” she said.
Another school of thought argues that empowering Tanzanian women could play a fundamental role in pushing and realizing an industrial economy, and play a central role in the family and society and thus their active participation in the industrial agenda could have a multiplying effect in building a strong economy.
“It is important that policy makers consider women’s participation in building an industrial economy that may have a direct impact in reducing and finally ending poverty at the family level and the society in general,” she urged.
She said that in Tanzania agriculture employs over 70 per cent of the population, the majority of whom are women, who form 53 per cent of the population. This alone gives a strong signal of considering the women group as an important segment in building a strong industrial economy.
Mlowezi noted that although nearly 51.1 per cent of women were employed in the informal sector, only 8 per cent of women owned land and the majority of women, about 60 per cent, fell into the poverty group.
She said according to the UN statistics, women contribute about 43 per cent of the world workforce and in other countries this reaches 70 per cent, thus making them an important development backbone.
She said that formerly the TIGUSHE Group comprised 46 women members, but to date there were only 16 members after some of their fellows decided to leave the group after being threatened and disheartened by local leaders who regarded them as people from the opposition, who were opposing development.
Mlowezi further said that the group was formed after some training given by the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP Mtandao).
“Women play a central role in the family and society and thus their active participation in the industrial agenda could have a multiplier effect in building a strong economy,” she noted.
However, she commended the government for lighting their homes through the Rural Energy Agency (REA). She therefore called upon the government and other key stakeholders to empower women in the villages with skills.
According to her, women need to be given processing machines to enable them participate in small-scale industries that would be improved with modern technology and link them with markets, thus boosting their incomes and raising their living standards.
“There have been a lot of post-harvest losses, which impact us seriously. So if the government and other Samaritans will support us with processing industries, we will be in a position to become economically independent from our husbands, who sometimes deny us some essential needs,” she urged.
Mlowezi also commended TGNP Mtandao and Crossroads, a Canadian organization, for their sponsorship of TIGUSHE group of women. The two organizations have given them 100 chicks which were five months old.
The organizations have dug a fishing pond and put up a hall for meeting and training. In total, including other equipment, the project has cost over Sh15 million.
“This project is very crucial for us because it will generate income and enable us reach a bigger number of women in distant areas. It will also lift the economic status of many women so that they don’t become dependent and even address gender-based violence some women face,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mlowezi has urged other players to support them with a well of water because they have acute water scarcity. She said that they were buying one bucket of water for Sh400.
For his part, Ijombe ward councellor John Sittima commended TGNP Mtandao and other players for the initiatives they have taken to empower women in his constituency through the TIGUSHE Group.
“We have allowed this kind of group of women to lift them economically. What TGNP Mtandao is doing to educate them on how to grab the untapped economic opportunities should be commended by everybody.
“If women know their rights and how to seek and utilise economic and leadership opportunities available they will contribute greatly to development for themselves and the entire nation,” he said.
Regarding scarcity of water, the ward councellor said that the local government, in collaboration with the villagers, was working hard to ensure the scarcity became history in the near future.