Dodoma. Land remains among crucial determinants of a country’s economic growth, especially through agriculture sector.
Statistics show that the agriculture sector accounts for more than one-quarter of Tanzania’s GDP, employing about 80 per cent of the work force.
However, it is also true that in Tanzania, as in much of Africa, women make important contribution to the agricultural labour force and to the rural economy in general. In rural areas, women are the chief producers of food in the family . Most men tend to spend their entire time in local brew clubs.
It is estimated that in Tanzania women constitute for at least 70 per cent of the agricultural labour force.
But despite playing such a vital role, to date, women in Tanzania have tenuous rights to the land they rely on to feed their families. Though Tanzania’s Land Act and Village Land Act (both passed in 1999) provide for women’s ownership of land, customary practices regarding marriage and inheritance continue to discriminate heavily against them.
In Tanzania customary practices often require women to access land through their fathers, brothers, husbands or other men who control the land.
It is for this reason that women small –scale food producers in Chamwino District in Dodoma have formed their special forum, dubbed “Chamwino Women Small-Scale Famers’ Forum” to advocate for the land rights and liberate women from all forms of social masculinities in their areas.
“For many years women here have seriously continued to be suppressed by men and are deprived of crucial constitutional rights due to prevailing poor cultures,”
“We can no longer tolerate seeing the way women spend their entire days in farms producing food for their families but after harvests their ‘lazy’ husbands end-up selling all harvested crops in order to get money to buy local brew, leaving the families in famine and destitute,” Anastazia Madeje, a secretary of the Chamwino’s small –scale women farmers’ forum told Political Platform during an interview in Mlodaa village, Chamwino District.
The journey of Chamwino’s women to push for their land rights has a long-way-up background, although very little has so far been achieved.
In October last year, they climbed Mountain Kilimanjaro in a special expedition dubbed ‘Women to Kilimanjaro; Stand Up for Women’s Land Rights’ in a bid to voice their voices to the government to implement gender focused policies and plan support for women transformative agenda in Tanzania.
“We have been pressed for our land rights for some years but we have yet to achieve what we intended. Many women in the districts are not in any position of owning land due to poor perception. Societies here believe that land is for the clan and that there is no need for men to give land to someone who is in transit (wives). If a female child is given land by fathers, the belief is, she will not respect her husband.”
“Some believe that if you give land to a female child, then then when she gets married the land will automatically be under the possession of her husband from another clan,” said Maria Chiute, a resident of Mlodaa village.
However, a recent tour of the district found that widows in most villages were seriously undermined after the death of their husbands.
“After the death of my husband two year ago, my in-laws took over all of our farms, leaving me with a small plot which cannot even produce enough food for my two daughters,” narrated Paulina Msisi.
Moreover, the tour noticed that women in the districts are also subjected to different forms of gender based violence (GBV) including rape and beatings by their husbands but they fail to report such crudity incidences due to masculinity dominance.
“Women are not involved when it comes to decision making pertaining to key issues, from family to societal levels, we are just the victims of men’s decision,” said Pendo Yaledi, a villager of Mlodaa.
But amid all these obstacles, women have vowed never to down their tools in the fight against masculinity and poor customary laws that suppressing their rights over land ownership.
Meanwhile, Chamwino District Commissioner Vumilia Nyamoga has vowed to do her righful part to see women in her area of jurisdiction are respected and treated equally.
“The fifth-phase government realizes the major role played by women to improve the economy in the country, and thus I will stand work hard to advocate for women’s welfare here in order to remove all gender inequalities,” she assured.
In most rural areas, the exclusion of women and girls from inheritance deprive them of their rightful inheritance and source of livelihood thereby leaving them destitute.
There has also been various initiatives to ensure that women and girls are not discriminated against but up to date discrimination exist, as a result widows and orphans are forced into poverty, girls dropping out from school, and to some extent early pregnancies and marriage.