However, on December 10, thousands of Pangani residents thronged at Bweni Village, across the Pangani River, to not only commemorate the end of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, but also to mourn the death a fresh victim, a nurse named Leah Mtega, a native of the village who died in the hands of rapists.
The late Leah was sexually abused by a gang of local youths on her way home from work in an incident that reminded hundreds of Pangani residents and film enthusiasts of the film Asha. Previewing the story of the young woman was never a fairy tale.
UZIKWASA organized this year’s event at Bweni village, to stamp its commitment to eliminating such uncouth behavior In Pangani, and to remind Pangani residents that the fight against group sexual abuse in the district is far from over.
In commemoration of the death of the nurse, Pangani has decided to name December 10 as Leah’s Day, an event that drew Pangani legislator Juma Awesso from a working tour of Lindi, as well as scores of government officials and local residents.
Pangani District Commissioner Zainab Abdallah Issa commended Bweni village leaders and residents for cooperating with the police, enabling it to arrest two perpetrators of the crime. “We won’t rest until we catch all of them,” she said.
Awesso, who is also Deputy Minister for Water and Irrigation, commended UZIKWASA for organising the event at Leah’s village as a part of 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
He urged residents to be in the frontline by reporting perpetrators, even if they are close relatives, promising to support UZIKWASA and civic leaders in creating awareness about gender violence, especially on the youth.
The UZIKWASA Executive Director, Novatus Urassa, said what happened to Leah was the most brutal form of gender violence that has ever happened in the small Pangani community.
Urassa pointed out that the organization would continue to mobilize various community groups to identify and report such incidences to the authorities, saying Pangani residents, as a community have a responsibility to follow up on such cases and provide evidence so that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
"Hear Me Too" was this year’s campaign slogan to end gender violence. According to UN Women, one in three women worldwide has become a victim of gender violence, one way or the other.
“This is the time for communities to change and to stop gender violence and oppression,” Uzikwasa Technical Adviser, Dr. Vera Pieroth said. She mentioned forms of violence against women as including rape, sexual corruption, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and deprivation of basic human rights of education, land ownership and equal voice in family and society.
Hundreds of people came to Bweni to participate in 16 days of activities and to pay their last respects to Leah, a committed nurse who worked in the nearby dispensary.
Bweni residents and civic leaders joined together and walked to the crime site where religious leaders said their prayers, people lit candles and left them there in memory of their beloved nurse. On the same night UZIKWASA’s film AISHA was screened.