TAWLA calls for refocus on women’s and children’s rights

13Mar 2016
Gerald Kitabu
Guardian On Sunday
TAWLA calls for refocus on women’s and children’s rights

THE Tanzania Women Lawyers Associations (TAWLA) has expressed concern over the plight and rights of women, children and girls across the country.

TAWLA’s Chairperson, Aisha Zumo Bade (l ) speaking to journalists in Dar es Salaam. Other were Ann Marie Mavenjina (c) and Association’s Executive Director, Tike Mwambipile(r).

Speaking to journalists in Dar es Salaam, TAWLA Chairperson Aisha Bade said that in the course of providing legal service, TAWLA has discovered that the rights of women, children and girls are still being infringed and violated in many parts of the country.

According to Bade, despite efforts by the government, TAWLA and other stakeholders, acts of gender discrimination and GBV incidents are on the increase.

She said that such violations of girls and women’s rights have put many girls and women at risk and contributed to deter women from achieving their goal and dreams.

She explained that TAWLA would continue educating and advocating for women rights to help them achieve their goals by providing free legal services including special groups.

“TAWLA would continue advocating for implementations of different national and international conventions and participation of women in different decision and policy making bodies” she said.

She said that women have many opportunities which, if worked out can rescue them from abject poverty, raise their economic standards and development of the country.

“This year’s theme of planet 50-50 by 2030” can be achieved if every individual plays his or her role” she said.

She further explained that to ensure the 2030 Agenda - which positions women's empowerment at the centre of global sustainability plans, concretely actions must be taken by every individual.

Gender equality is an economic and development issue, and if this is the case, the current Tanzania legal, policy and institutional frameworks must be reformed to avail economic opportunities for women.

She said that it is difficult to develop and achieve high level of economic standards if women who constitute half of the entire population are still in vicious cycle.

“This is a matter of urgency that there should be ownership of this agenda. It should not only involve organizing and conducting series of events to mark this day but also should entail mainstreaming in our national budgets for it to bear desired fruits” she observed.

She also explained that for the government of Tanzania and the general public at large to achieve desired development and economic status, enactment of different laws and policies should consider gender equality at all levels, departments and sectors.

She called on the government and other stakeholders to set aside adequate resources to tackle the issue of gender discrimination and GBV.

In fact, women comprise slightly more than half of the world population. Their contribution to the social and economic development of societies is also more than half as compared to that of men by virtue of their dual roles in the productive, reproductive and community management spheres.

Yet their participation in formal political structures and processes, where decisions regarding the use of societal resources generated by both men and women are made, remains insignificant.

Currently, women’s representation in legislatures around the world is 15 percent. Despite the evident commitment of the international community to gender equality and to the bridging the gender gap in the formal political arena, reinforced by the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform of Action, there are only twelve countries where women hold 33 per cent or more seats in parliament.

This is equally the case in Tanzania which according to the Tanzania population in urban and rural area by age and sex, 2012 census statistics there are 10,688,294 women and 9,595,935 men from 18-60 years old

TAWLA Executive Director Tike Mwambipile called on women to be confident when reporting discrimination and GBV cases, saying some women would take such cases to TAWLA but while the cases are being worked out by TAWLA, the women would stop cooperating.

She said that many cases that involve members of the family, normally tend to be resolved secretly at family level.

“We have realized that while TAWLA starts working on legal measures against these cases, you find that some women are called by their relatives behind the curtain to resolve their cases amicably,” she said.

In fact issues of discrimination and GBV have been fueled by the weakness on legal and policy frameworks.

Such incidents would have gone down if there were a specific law on GBV which would address issues related to domestic violence and protection of the survivors or the victims.

There is a need to urgently amend of some of the existing laws which appear to infringe women and girls rights, and strengthen law enforcement mechanisms including having in place public awareness programs.

For her part, a member of the executive council for TAWLA, Ann Marie Mavenjina, said that for the past few years, TAWLA has received many complaints on divorce, land issues and inheritance.

Citing an example of inheritance, she said that TAWLA has been educating the general public on Will writing.

“This campaign is being conducted across its legal aid offices located in four regions of Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Arusha and Dodoma.

She said that the Will writing campaign, aimed at facilitating legal protection of family members following increasing number of family conflicts arising from inheritance.

She said that TAWLA has taken the initiative following the rising number of issues on problems of inheritance from the community members because most men have not been writing the will.

Within these few years of its existence, TAWLA has advocated for the reform of several gender discriminative laws and contributed to enactment of laws that protect women and children in Tanzania.

These laws include the Sexual Offences (Special Provisions) Act, and the Land Act No. 4 and 5 of 1999.
Others are the Children’s Act and strategically offered input on women rights and gender issues in the Constitution Review Process.

While the world celebrates this annual event, Worldwide, more than a third of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with this being most common between a women's teenage years and menopause

The new 2030 agenda, which is meant to build on the unfulfilled Millennium Development Goals, has a stand-alone goal just for the empowerment of women and girls as a core means of spurring socio-economic and political development.