Tag Archives: Womens rights

TANZANIA: Culture v Women’s Rights

I went to Tanzania for 8 weeks on a community development project, and during that time I found myself falling in love with the country, it has become my second home. A place I could always go back to. Everyone around me knows that I want to go back and work in Tanzania one day especially under the UN: Women or any other organisation working towards empowering women.
Society in Tanzania is highly patriarchal, males in that country are deemed as superior while females are seen as inferior &weak. As in many African states, there are gender roles assigned to men and women which perpetuate male dominance and female relegation. Boys and girls throughout their lives from the time they are toddlers are taught to behave in a certain way. Girls are conditioned to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal and that household chores are their responsibility. I recall that during my time there I had gotten ill so I went to the doctor, we engaged in conversation about our countries comparing Tanzania to Botswana, he then proceeded to ask why I was not married, and according to him 19 is the perfect age for marriage and that some girls there get married at 16 so I should also get married so I can have someone to take care of me. I cringed when he said that.
Tanzanian men seem to have supremacy in roles of political leadership as well as socially. Where I come from women are quite outspoken more especially in social setups and we are free to raise our concerns and voice out our opinions and when we did that, Tanzanian men would always be shocked because for them women speaking out and having a stance on any matter somehow unsettled them. They always use culture as a defence when you ask why they are oppressing their women.
For centuries, African women have tolerated the impact of cultural traditions, traditions that limit our advancement and are oppressive. Culture in Africa is something that governs our behaviour, we take it very seriously and we respect our culture, problem now comes when this culture has certain aspects that are dehumanizing, where your human rights are now being infringed upon and you are being oppressed.

Women in Tanzania are oppressed, even I was oppressed. The way I dressed was always a problem as it was deemed “inappropriate” anything knee-length & above the knee is supposedly revealing and once you leave the house like that you have to prepare to be body shamed. Everyone would look at you and make disgusting remarks. I remember an occasion were my friend and I had an altercation with a bus conductor because we were putting on skirts which were slightly above our knees, he was shouting in Swahili and then proceeded to point at my leg.. He shook his head and said “leg”. This is something I was not accustomed to. I didn’t know that my legs could infuriate someone that much.
On another occasion while at the Department of Home Affairs, the security officers told us we were not dressed appropriately because our shoulders and arms were exposed and because we were putting on pants. He said it was not allowed but nonetheless allowed us to go into the premises and said next time we should dress properly. I was beyond shocked! So many tourists come in and out of those offices on a daily basis, people from different countries with different cultures so to force their culture on us was quite unfair. I do understand that sometimes one has to adapt and respect people’s cultures especially because Tanzania’s population is mostly Muslims however they also need to understand where we are coming from and be open-minded. My bodily integrity and autonomy as a woman needs to be respected, this policing of how I need to dress when I go out is so disrespectful, even when one is at the public beach, wearing a swimsuit made you subject to disparaging looks and comments. The only place where I felt free to dress however I want was at Bagamoyo, and I guess that was because it is a tourist town therefore they have become accustomed to foreigners putting on their shorts.
While doing my research on harmful cultural practices I came across two tribes in Tanzania, these are the Maasai and Kuria. These 2 tribes circumcise young girls. Female Genital Mutilation is still a big problem in Africa, it is widely practiced despite the fact that it is inhumane & barbaric cultural as it strips the girl child of her dignity and bodily integrity and also because of the health risks involved.
These are traditions that have been practiced for many years and so it has become a way of life and it is embedded in them. Whether patriarchy will ever be dismantled in Tanzania would be difficult to determine because the Islam religion is also a power player in their way of life. And the majority of the people as I had stated before are Muslims therefore their religious beliefs need to be afforded the respect and tolerance they deserve.
Furthermore, there needs to be promotion of gender equality by changing or enacting laws and policies. Also, culture is not static; it has to be modified with the changing times in order to abolish the practices that are harmful to women. People living in rural areas need to be educated on the dangers and health risks that come with practices such as FGM, We also need to ensure that we get rid of early child marriages to ensure that the girl child gets an education so she can also make a contribution to the country’s political and socio-economic development. This would really help to empower Tanzanian women.

Having lived there doesn’t mean I’m an expert on the culture, in actual fact, I only know a small fragment of it therefore I cannot rebuke it in totality just like I cannot rebuke my Tswana culture because all cultures have certain positive attributes that we also need to appreciate. I will always commend Tanzanians for nurturing and preserving their culture, the young people I met were well informed about their culture, they wore it proudly; it is an integral part of them, and the same goes for their native language, Kiswahili.
In essence, Culture plays a major role in our lives as Africans but would it be right to condone and uplift this culture that continuously strips women of their rights and their integrity? Should culture supersede the rights of women or is it time for Tanzanians to review some of the oppressive practices they do in name of “culture”?

 

My Interview on Phenomenal African Woman Magazine

WORDS ON MARBLE

PAW stands for Phenomenal African Women, It is a foundation which aims to Inspire, Celebrate and Empower African women who are making an impact in their communities.They feature female change makers from all over the continent.I was privileged enough to be approached by them to be featured on their online magazine. It always puts a smile on my face when I am recognized for the small contributions I do in my community and I hope it inspires that 19 year old girl who thinks she does not have the power to make an impact.

Below is the link so everyone can check it out and learn a bit on who I am and what  drives me.

http://phenomenalafricawoman.blogspot.com/2016/06/there-is-no-force-more-powerful-than.html

Rise up and realize that you are undeniably a QUEEN

Maiden’s bursary: Another example of how patriarchal societies aim to control women’s bodies

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The maiden bursary in South Africa was created by the municipality in a certain district. This bursary program funds studies for young women but here is the catch, these young women have to prove they are virgins and remain virgins for the entire duration that they are in the program or else they will be kicked out. Therefore, if you are not a virgin that simply means no education. So far there are about 16 girls being funded by this scholarship, these young women are said to be examined regularly to check if their virginity is still intact. The underlying fact is virginity testing is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy and dignity.

The mayor of this district Mayor Dudu Mazibuko said the rationale behind this program is to encourage young girls to abstain from sex and remain “pure” as well as focus on their education. This is very discriminatory. What about the boys? From my understanding sex is a two way street, or is it not? In actual fact what do my sexual shenanigans have to do with my education?

What are the chances that a bursary could be created for circumcised young men? I bet it never crossed their minds because of the fact that we live in a patriarchal society that is aimed at controlling women’s bodies and our sexuality. We are perceived as undignified puppets with neither a stance nor a voice.

With patriarchy not being a virgin equates you to a whore. You will be slut shamed and that is why most young women are not so sexually liberated, because of the fear of being ostracised yet men are applauded when they talk about their sexual conquests. Young women are taught to view their bodies in a negative light, as a source of shame.

One scenario that was not addressed was what about the young women who were raped? It’s a sad reality but rape statistics in South Africa are horrendous. And alot of these crimes are not reported for fear of not being taken seriously because after all patriarchy says it is the women who lead men on and beg to be raped, right?

I am so angry at people who are defending this program in the name of “African culture” . This culture thing has really been overused, it’s now a means we use in our patriarchal practices in order to suppress both girls and women.
Something one of my Twitter followers said was ” BLACK PEOPLE: stop defending patriarchy with its our culture. If our culture violates & kills women then I don’t want it”

With the current state in South Africa with regards to education being expensive all the government is doing is luring people into this unconstitutional program. Stop using culture to blackmail and manipulate women.

Below is the link to the petition to stop forced virginity testing for bursaries #virginitybursaries
http://www.amandla.mobi/virgin_bursary?recruiter_id=22614

until next time!

BOSA SEBELE

Why I advocate for women’s empowerment & inclusion:

It baffles me how African’s countries believe they can develop economically, politically and socially when women are still being excluded from taking an active role in the leadership and the governing of the country.

In the words of Malala Yousafzai “We cannot all succeed when half of us are being held back”

And as Thomas Sankara once said “Women hold up half the sky!”

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BOSA SEBELE

WHY BOTSWANA SHOULD CRIMINALIZE MARITAL RAPE

Rape is a most serious, humiliating and invasive assault against a person and to suggest that it should be permitted if the perpetrator is a spouse is totally unacceptable and a historic aberration” these were the words of one of the country’s most celebrated High Court Judge, Justice Ian Kirby and I say cheers to that!

A fact that we cannot hide from is that a large number of women are sexually assaulted or raped by their husband every single year. Rape within these conventional relationships hardly ever gets reported mainly because there is an assumption that a wife automatically consents due to the nature of the relationship and most importantly because Botswana does not recognise marital rape as a criminal offense.

I strongly believe that the Marital Immunity Doctrine in Botswana is barbaric. This immunity violates a women’s right to bodily integrity and freedom based on the argument that it is impossible for a husband to rape his wife. The mere fact that rape within a marriage is not recognized goes to show how women are being mutilated in our country and how they are expected to surrender their bodies wholly to their husbands. Just because you are joined together in Holy Matrimony does not mean that he owns you. A woman’s bodily integrity should be respected.

Marriage in Botswana is a civil death not a civil union”– Attaliah Molokomme

Marital Rape is dehumanizing, unjust and a criminal act. Every woman either in Botswana or anywhere else in the world should be afforded the right to refuse consent to sexual activity regardless of the fact that she is married to that person. A NO! Means NO! A marriage certificate or 20 carat diamond ring does not change that.  It’s about time the legislature implemented a law that criminalises marital rape so these perpetrators can be put behind bars because of their inhumane and degrading actions towards their wives.