IF our society can be proud of the success already achieved today, then the first to be recognised for such efforts are women who in one way or another have been strong pillars in support of their families, whether in urban or rural areas.
Women have become the major producers of food sold even in urban areas, and they have also contributed significantly in various aspects of society, including fees for children in schools. Special thanks for the great work done to liberate women from different problems include associations like Women Fund, the Tanzania Women Journalists’ Association (TAMWA), Tanzania Gender Networking Programme(TGNP), Tanzania women Lawyers’ Association (TAWLA) and other institutions which have been fighting for the dignity and honour of women in society.
During the Special Constituent Assembly in Dodoma three years ago, I camped in that place where I met women who advocate for women and children’s rights, and later I wrote some articles on the role of woman in society. For a long time now I have worked with TAMWA and TGNP, the two associations which strive to eradicate gender-based violence in society.
To a large extent, the efforts of these agencies have brought some success, because, child marriage has gone down in Shinyanga Region, while Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Manyara, Mara and Arusha, Singida regions has started declining, thanks to efforts engineered by the organisations mentioned above, which have used their power to educate the community the impact of gender- based violence.
While some good efforts are being carried out by these organisations to reduce gender-based violence in society, there are three things I would like to talk about, which I think make women discriminate themselves in society without actually knowing that.
I will speak with concrete examples to bring my point across to enable women change such behaviours as soon as possible, in order to protect their dignity and honour in society. The first thing I would like to talk about today is where some women in urban areas go to some joints to let young boys wash their legs. In Dar es Salaam today there are places where women go on weekends to be scoured their feet, as they line up in a long series to get that service.
An example is last Saturday when I was passing around Mwenge area in Dar es Salaam, where I met a group of 15 women sat in a row, waiting to be scoured their feet. Those women that their age was between 35 and 45 were waiting for that service which I was told is offered at 5,000/-.
What I saw there was indeed surprising, because the boy who conducts that business does it not in hygienic way, because after he finishes washing the feet of one person he jumps into another without even cleaning that brush he used for the other person. I think that poses a risk of transmitting skin diseases as well as HIV/AIDS simply because bracing feet could result into bleeding and thus easier to infectious diseases from one person to another.
I asked myself some questions after seeing that scenario - Have these women been so lazy that they need a person to wash their feet? Can’t they buy soap and wash their own feet at home, at least to show they care?
A man who was passing near that place saw those women and he shacked his head and I asked him why did he do so he answered “If I could find my wife scouring her feet in this place, I think I would fight her.
Such behaviors do not exist in Dar es Salaam alone, but in some regions upcountry, and women do it without shame and in one way or another it shows how they have started to become lazy, failing to clean their bodies on their own.
Well, if they have decided to do so, why don’t they go to salons which put into consideration the hygiene atmosphere, where the health conditions are put into consideration? The second thing that women do in a wrong way these days is respect to their fellow women and elderly. Women using public transport like daladala prefer to sit while on the bus, and a survey has shown that they cannot let pregnant mothers and people with special needs get a seat.
You find young girls and mothers comfortable bending their heads on their smartphones, while their colleagues who are pregnant standing while on the bus, and this is really humiliating. Third and final observation that I see making some women continue to degrade themselves is when they spend much of their time going to prayer meetings, while leaving their children without adequate supervision at home. Let me be well understood here, because I am not against people going for prayers but I am opposing those who spend the entire weekend in prayer meetings.
What I see is that some women are deceived, and they use a lot of their time listening to some preaching, that the end of the day leave their young children without their mums’ care. Let us look at the week’s schedule of a family that still has children in primary school, where children go to school very early, and their parents also come from work late to find them already asleep.
Children come home before their parents do so, and the only person is the house girl who always makes sure that children do their homework, bath, eat and go to sleep on time. Due to some reasons including heavy traffic, some parents come back home late and find children already in bed.
This means that from Monday to Friday, parents may not be able to meet with their children due to their work schedules, and this gives them Saturday and Sunday as the only time where there may be interaction between them every week.
But the weekend’s schedule might have time for parents to be with their children because the father might be having a meeting somewhere, and the wife decides to go to the ‘maombi’ leaving house girl as the person in charge in the house.
To me, if prayer meetings revoke the role of parents to their children, then such meetings should be abandoned because children are given to parents to be taken care of, and not otherwise. It is in this context that I see the importance of mothers to ensure they are not tempted to use all weekends in prayers, but rather stay home with their children.
If we do not care about this, then we should not be surprised to see our children turning to be robbers, street girls, drug abusers or begin to do poorly in their studies. If it becomes so, the obligation to our children who are special gifts from God to parents loses meaning.