NGO report decries slow attainment of gender equality

24Apr 2016
Guardian On Sunday
NGO report decries slow attainment of gender equality

DESPITE recognition of the importance of human rights, equality and non-discrimination for development in the sustainable development goals currently adopted by the government, most girls and women still endure pains owing to gender violence.

Many African countries failed to meet the 2015 MDGs deadline

According to a local non-governmental organization’s report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) shows that the state has continued to sideline priority issues critical to promoting gender parity.

A report compiled by a task force to analyse an earlier report submitted by the government was coordinated by the Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC).
The human rights activists say fundamental human rights guarantees of equality and non-discrimination were legally binding obligations and did not need instrumental justification.

On legal framework, the report asserted that the Law of Marriage Act, Section 114 (2); the Local Customary Law (Declaration Order) 1963; the Penal Code Section 169 A; the Probate and Administration of Estates Act, Section 92 (1) did not promote gender equality.

Theodosia Nshala, a WLAC director, maintained that the government had also not yet domesticated CEDAW in its entirety, making it harder to fully eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girlchild.

“There is a growing body of evidence that human rights-based approaches, and these key guarantees in particular, can lead to more sustainable and inclusive development results,” she said.

She said discrimination could cause both poverty and be a hurdle in the alleviating poverty as a group of people is not included in all efforts to increase production and end abject poverty.

A United Nations report on gender equality released to guide implementation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also points out that even in countries where there had been significant gains toward achieving the MDGs, inequalities have grown.

The MDGs have supported aggregate progress, often without acknowledging the importance of investing in the most marginalized and excluded, or giving due credit to governments and institutions which do ensure that development benefits these populations.

As the matter stands now, access to legal aid, especially for a victim of sexual abuse such as rape, was a challenge.

“We have witnessed changes and efforts by the government to promote gender equality but we’re equally concerned with the desire to amend laws which contravene the constitution,” Nshala added.

Tanzania Media Women’s Association Executive Director Edda Sanga said Tanzania still keeps a number of discriminatory laws which adversely affect vulnerable women in their applicability.

“Forced marriages, especially of minors, remain a common practice, particularly in rural communities where conservative traditions and customs are regarded as acceptable,” she said, adding:

“Girls who are not in school are particularly vulnerable to child marriage.”The government report shows that in Tanzania mainland, the gender gap between girls and boys in primary schools had been significantly reduced. Indeed, Tanzania had achieved even before 2015 better enrollment of schoolgirls who were a majority compared to boys.

“The big challenge is the dropout rate among girls,” she said. “Factors contributing to school dropout among girls include economic, school level and cultural factors,” she added.

Utti Mwang’amba, Director of Centre for Widows and Children Assistance (CWCA), explained why gender inequality was a major contributing factor to poverty, saying housing, and financial support amongst women was a matter of serious concern.

She said while the state established financial institutions to assist women, such as the Tanzania Women’s Bank and Twiga Bancorp, the institutions did not benefit rural women who make the major of the population of Tanzania.

Besides, she said the bank offered loans at a high interest rate that the majority of women in rural areas could not afford them.

Looking at the economy of Tanzania, she said 80 per cent of the population was engaged in agriculture, which accounted for 56 per cent of the economy. Most of those engaged in the sector were women living in remote communities.

These communities are excluded and banks now target commercial traders rather than farmers, she noted.Dr Monica Mhoja, also a human rights defender, said shortage of social services in rural communities including lack of sexual and reproductive health information, was a clear indicator that there was little of importance of human rights, equality and non-discrimination.

She said that for the new government to implement its priorities, human rights, equality and non-discrimination should be of major concern in attaining sustainable goals.