Why Tanzania needs to do more to advance women’s rights

30Nov 2021
Christina Mwakangale
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Why Tanzania needs to do more to advance women’s rights

TANZANIA needs to speed up its efforts towards advancing women’s rights, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with interest in gender issues have observed.

Members of Gender and Development Seminar Series (GDSS) take part in a group activity during a training session which took place in Dar es Salaam recently. Photo/ Chistina Mwakangale

Speaking at a two-day seminar to discuss the position of Tanzania in Southern African Development Community (SADC) gender barometer in Dar es Salaam recently, representatives of CSOs said Tanzania is lagging behind other countries within the bloc.

The barometer assesses efforts made by SADC member states towards equal representation of men and women politics and decision making positions at all levels such as in cabinet; parliament, council, management of the public services, chief executive officers and boards of state owned enterprises or parastatals as well as the private sector.

The CSOs which participated in the seminar are Salha Foundation, SAWA, YUNA, UMATI, Binti Makini, Msichana Initiative, Mwanamke, Uongozi, KC Saranga, Malala Fund, and Iccao. Journalists also took part in the event.

Anna Mkina, Head of Programme, Activism and Movement Building at Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), said Tanzania, like other members of SADC, signed the agreement to implement the agenda which aims to remove sexual violence, eradicate diseases and bring gender equality in the region.

According to her, Tanzania has achieved little compared to the countries involved in implementing the agreement in the SADC Gender Barometer 2021.

Mkina said some of the areas where Tanzania little progress include early marriage, child pregnancy, safe menstrual health, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and leadership opportunities.

"There has been an increase in teenage pregnancy whereas 31 percent of girls in Tanzania get married before the age of 18. High Court ordered government to ban marriage for children under 18 years, but the government appealed, she said.
“And there have been more reports concerning sexual violence during Covid-19 restrictions hence a surge in GBV during the period."

Mkina said only two of the 16 SADC countries namely Seychelles and Mauritius, have met SDG target 3.1 of reducing maternal mortality to fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal and mortality rate statistics in Tanzania show that there are 524 deaths per 100, 000 live births.”

“Data show that only 36 per cent of women in the reproductive age group of between 15 to 49 years use contraceptive whereas there is 16 per cent of unmet need for contraception amongst all women aged between 15 and 49,” Mkina said.

Speaking about Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (ASRHR) in line with SADC Strategy 2019-2030, she said data show that there is rapid response in only eight countries.

She said that there is minimal number of women leaders in many sectors including media, adding that there is a small number of women in parliament. Statistics of Women in Parliament SADC from 2009 to 2021 shows that only 37 per cent of women are members of parliament in Tanzania.

Lilian Liundi, Executive Director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) made a presentation on Gender and Development Seminar Series (GDSS), saying the public needs to report issues related to sexual violence in their respective areas and take action against those culprits.

“There are incidents occurring in our areas but they are not reported, hence the problem continues,” she said.

She cited one of the incidences where a disabled child was raped by his uncle but the case ended in negotiation at family level.

"People with disabilities face more violence; imagine a disabled child being raped by a family member. The society should be more considerate about people in this particular group,” she said.

“There is a need to change the society’s mindset. Together we can say stop sexual violence taking place in the society.”

Zahara Omary, a participant, said most sexual abuse incidences are committed by trusted close relatives and friends, adding that in such circumstances, it becomes difficult for the crimes to be reported to police for the law enforcers to help victims seek justice.

“A child aged 13 years has delivered a child after she was raped by her step-father. However, relatives and the society kept silence and when authorities intervened, they did not collaborate with police,” she said.