“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”- United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Despite the existence of rights, which should ensure the protection of all human beings the reality of many people in Tanzania looks different. Seeing the big vulnerability of children and women in the Mara Region, Jipe Moyo started a fight against harmful traditions and tries to break down deadlocked structures. The lack of respect and equality creates the image that women and girls are less worth than men and leads to injustice and oppression in many different forms:
- Child/ early/ forced marriage:
- FMG: Female Genital Mutilation:
- FGM reasons (religious, medical myths) seen as a social convention – deep-rooted belief, mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers – “highly respected and even feared members of the community” challenge to interfere – missing ability of parents to protect their daughters ; (promote to) follow the tradition: ideals of femininity and modesty
- ! Cutting as a sign of becoming a woman, afterwards ready for marriage, get advertised (way too young) – aim to end their joy in sex (WHO “reduce a woman’s libido): passive, undemanding (she would be a faithful wife then – “resist extramarital sexual acts) just there for baring/’producing’ children, owned by the husband; safe their virginity (cleaning – purity);
- Peer pressure, feel embarrassed if girl refuses (often no chance even for the parents to protect their daughters)
Economical reasons: “Ngaribas get paid a fee for circumcising (more for a boy than a girl), and they give some of this fee to the wazee wa mila, who must also give their permission before any girl can be cut.”
- terrible hygienic circumstances (infections), girls suffer the rest of their lives and also many of them die “25% of the girls and women die through the practice or the effects of FGM” (TDF) bleed to death, HIV/Aids, shock; urinary, vaginal, menstrual problems; psychological problems, feelings of unworthiness
- CSCE: Child Sexual Commercial Exploitation
- Rural and urban/semi urban areas (31.2%) Mara region
- Related to domestic workers (sexual abuse and exploitation) no protection (no one to tell) at home; depend on their employers
- Associated with sexual risk taking behaviour; There is a huge lack of sexual education and safe contraception, that is why CSCE often leads to sexual infections and unwanted more than 80% of female who were involved in child sexual commercial exploitation became pregnant before the age of 18; no social security, no help in bringing up their children
- Culture and Ignorance as driving factors – “Mara region is characterized by women based oppressive norms and values”, problems are not estimated,Lacking legal aid, there are very limited and hardly any by-laws of protecting children from child sexual commercial exploitation – very few are known to the communities in the Mara region (e.g. mining/fishing already considered as being the norm)
- Child Labour
A driving factor for child marriages in Tanzania is the lack of legally protection and of possibilities to assert the rights of those affected by child marriage. Given the fact that under the law of marriage Act. (1971), which allows boys to marry at 18 and girls at 15, child marriage still has legal status in Tanzania, it is very difficult to interfere and to build confidence in the justice system.
In general, marriage is considered as business, and not as a promise of two people who love each other and want to spend their lives together. The obligation of men to pay a bride price in order to get married is most common in the Mara region. After the parents conducted negotiations with the groom, and the dowry got payed, the girl has to leave her home and belongs to a man, who she might have never seen before. Through this practice women and girls get denied their rights, become the property of men and lose any possibility of being independent. Once the dowry is paid, there is no way out for girls, who often come from families that lack the possibility to meet the basic needs of their children. Men take advantage of the extreme poverty, which has a huge effect on child marriage in the Mara region, where girls get degraded as a source of income. Parents consider marrying their daughters as a way of achieving financial security and escaping their bad living conditions.
Girls get deprived of the ability to express themselves and their attitude towards getting married. Not taking into account their opinion from the outset makes a harmonic marriage impossible and is against the self-determination of women and girls.
Furthermore the fear that girls could bring shame to the family through having premarital sex or pregnancy, causes parents to marry their daughters early. They get forced into adulthood, although they are way too young to be a bride and all the more to be a mother. Adolescent and child pregnancy is estimated to be strongly linked to early marriage. Women suffer their whole life from the physical and emotional health effects. Many girls are pressurized by their husbands and in-laws to conceive despite their young age, and they even feel insecure if they can’t have the children expected of them. In the Mara region there is a lack of sexual education, reproductive health services and community support for young mothers.
Once a girl is married, there is often a cycle of domestic violence, creating an environment of fear in which girls and women must live and from which the can rarely escape. Regardless of any hardship they might face, they can’t return to their family where they would be viewed as a burden. Because married girls are forced to drop out of school, they do not have any access to education and get even more dependent on their husband. The lack of knowledge provided to the communities is estimated to be one of the most important factors affecting the rage of child marriages.
Definition (WHO): “FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Female Genital Mutilation is an extreme form of discriminating and one of the cruellest ways of oppressing women and girls. It is a grievous bodily harm that violates their rights to life and health.
which form is practiced in the Mara region, Female genital mutilation is practiced in different tribes in the Mara region and takes place every two years during December.
There is no funeral for girls who die through the procedure. Because community members believe, burying them would bring bad fate to the whole village, the dead bodies are thrown away in the bush.
Female Genital Mutilation reflects a deep-rooted inequality. Currently more than 200 million girls and women alive have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and the number is increasing every day. The approach to end FGM and to enforce the rights of the girls, must involve all parts of the society and take into account the power structures of the communities with the aim of building a strong cooperation.
In the Mara region there is a high appearance of sexual violence against children and specifically girls, which visualises once more the disrespect of their will and rights.
Already girls at a very young age, get denied their personality and are treated as objects who should be available for men at any time. Experiencing sexual abuse infects the relationship towards themselves and their bodies. They get deprived of experiencing joy or love. Girls suffer their whole life from the physical and psychological effects of being involved in commercial sexual exploitation.
In many cases girls get forced into participating in sexual activities in order to contribute to the family income. For many young women prostitution is the last way to escape poverty.
Rampant problem in fishing and mining areas (the prevalence is much less in those villages far away from fishing and mining activities): peer pressure plays a big role – seen as normal, young girls are influenced by adolescents, parents force them to earn money through prostitution, source of income
For girls who escape from their home places and have to live on the street sexual commercial exploitation becomes the only way to survive. Especially urban areas, like Musoma town, show a high vulnerability for CSCE in bars and guest houses.
In the Mara region children are seen as a source of wealth and get forced into child labour, which the International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development”.
Particularly in the domestic work sector the rate of child work is extremely high. Domestic services are considered as a contribution to the family income and as a girl’s preparation for her marriage life. Because of weak governmental regulations on child work, there is almost no control inside the families, what often leads to non-reported violence and neglect of basic needs. In many cases domestic work turns into a 24-hour job and children live on perpetual call without even a minute to rest. Domestic workers are deprived of their freedom, considered as the property of their employers and get payed way too less or sometimes even nothing.
Furthermore domestic work is closely related to another human rights abuse namely child trafficking. Children are separated from their families and are brought to places far away, in order to be domestic workers. They lose any connection to their homes, what makes it impossible to return. Without any form of protection, helpless children are left alone with all hardships they face.
Many children, who are involved in domestic work have never been taught about their rights and don’t know that their life shouldn’t be like this. They were told it is an expected contribution and the fear of getting punished prevents them from escaping. Furthermore they are forced to withdraw from school. Without an access to education domestic workers get even more dependent on their employers.
Children who run away from those abusive situations at their workplaces or homes, often end up on the street. The violence, that caused them to escape, continues and they have to struggle through life completely on their own. Due to the lack of care taking and meeting their basic needs, children try to find any kind of work and also participate in illegal activities with the aim to find a way out.