Providing education to girls and women in Tanzania cannot be the only thing that rescues women from centuries of male dominance in African societies and around the globe, unless strict legal and policy framework is meticulously implemented to protect their rights. Most girls and women who are educated face greater traditional and cultural challenges that cause them to retreat, and they end up doing nothing with the education that they spent time to acquire.
Salma Ahmad (49), a resident of Dar es Salaam, says she has never got herself involved with getting a job, though she had attended a secretarial course in late 1980s, because her husband has prohibited her from such attempt.
“It’s jealous I can say, he does not trust me at all, this is how I have been for 24 years now of my marriage. I had tried to insist I get a job but divorce has always silenced me, so I can’t leave my children suffering,” she explained.
Salma is among many women in Tanzania that have been denied by their husbands and their families their right of getting a job or becoming involved in business to generate money. Most of them have mentioned jealous, religious and traditional ways of life as the main reasons for them to remain in their households, staying for years without earning anything.
Devota Minja (44) is a agricultural specialist who had worked under the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in late 1990s before getting married in 1993. She said her husband stopped her from continuing with her job in 1995, saying that it was no longer important for her to keep on working while her husband could provide whatever was needed.
“He just asked me what I was missing inside that I should work to have. He insisted if it was food and clothes and any other thing that I wanted, it was his responsibility to provide as a husband. So I stopped working in 1995, it was quite harsh but not an option,” she said.
Mustapha Chitimkula, a Dar es Salaam resident and a married man with five children, said that he is accepting of the belief for a married women not to get a job because in the African context, and how God created human beings, women are there to take care of children and satisfy their husbands.
“it is there, throughout the scriptures and even the history of our ancestors that our wives should remain at home, taking care of our children and attends the house cleanness; I don’t see the point of them having a job, for what? They have husbands,” he said, while stressing that married women could get themselves into other love affairs with their bosses or other men they meet when going or getting back from their work places.
The right to work, particularly for women in most African countries including Tanzania, has been jeopardized due to the male dominated society, according to the Ministry of Community Development, Women and Children. In the rural sector and the poor urban suburbs, women carry a heavier burden because traditionally speaking, women lack property rights and they also lack adequate knowledge on existing credit facilities. Due to their low education level, their knowledge and skills on how to manage their work is generally low. Most of women also depend on poor technology, which consumes their time and energy.
In spite of all that, it is estimated that women in Tanzania, especially rural women, provide 80 percent of the labor force in rural areas and produce 60 percent of food production. Even though they are the main producers of cash crops the environment do not allow them to own their own wealth. Women do not have a decision on reproductive issues either. For example, most women cannot decide on the number of children in the family though they are the ones playing a big role in child rearing.
Maimuna Kanyamala the director of Kivulini women’s right organization based in Mwanza, said that domestic violence against women, including denial of the right to work, must be immediately stopped in order to build a free community that respects and values women’s rights.
“Women can no longer be the servants of men as their masters, thus we Kivulini we are fighting to retain the value of women in our societies, this includes their right to work,” she said, adding the importance for the government to interfere in order to protect womens rights.
Most women who have been restricted from getting a job or involving themselves in self employment endure hard times if their husbands pass away, in terms of financial support to run the family’s basic demands.
Hidaya Mkumba said she even failed to take her children to school when her beloved husband passed away, due to a road accident in 2007, because she had no job and during his life her husband had never bothered to find any work for her.
“If it were not for the help of my brother in-law, my children could have never gone to school. Where could I get all that money for school and at the same time food, clothes and the rent? It was a dream I can tell,” she said, while insisting that these beliefs must be stopped because they mostly affect women.
The right to work is guaranteed in both national legislations and the international arena, the Constitution of Tanzania under Article 22, the Employment and Labor Relations Act no.11 of 2004, as well as many other policy documents which stipulate the right to work and access employment without discrimination of any kind and paid respectively.
Internationally, the right to work is guaranteed as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which creates a duty to member states to guarantee freedom of work, skill development, social security and fair wages.
Rashid has worked extensively as a volunteer with various non-governmental organizations which advocate on issues of human rights, climate change and peace issues. In his free time, he likes to talk politics and discuss different regional and national issues of development with peers and policy makers.