Tanzania: Women farmers speak out against domestic violence

| December 21, 2015

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Zaina Issakungu sits on a green plastic chair at the back of a small conference room in the town of Singida, in central Tanzania. The 48-year-old farmer usually spends her days in the remote village of Msisi, tending to her sorghum and maize. But this morning, a group of broadcasters, local government officers, and development workers have come to learn about domestic violence from Mrs. Issakungu.

A few birds chirp in the trees outside, but the room is otherwise silent and all eyes focus on Mrs. Issakungu as she tells her story.

Mrs. Issakungu loved her husband dearly—even though he beat her every day. Because of the beatings, she was forced to sleep outside most nights and often had to ask neighbours for food for her six children.

She says, “In 2002, I decided to leave. I had no clothing; I was really poor.”

Mrs. Issakungu packed a few things in a small bag and left home. That night, she slept in the street with her baby. She went to the police the next day. Her husband was sentenced to seven months in jail.

He married another woman as soon as he was released. But six years later, he fell ill and his new wife left him. Mrs. Issakungu cared for him until he died.

Now she must provide for her family alone. But she is no longer hindered by an abusive husband.

Felix Maigo is the Social Welfare Officer for Singida District Council. He supports women affected by domestic violence, providing counselling and taking legal action.

Mr. Maigo says, “If you trace the source of violence against women, it is because they are not independent economically.” He explains that in the local culture, women often do most of the farm work, but do not receive their fair share of the profits.

He says: “There used to be jobs for men and jobs for women … [But] we have started to educate people that men and women are equal and that [most] jobs can be done by every person in society.”

Mr. Maigo believes that information on farming will help women become more financially independent. He hopes that including women in the farming programs broadcast on community radios will teach women their rights and how they can get involved in income-generating activities.

He adds: “Men should [also] be involved—violence against women is not accepted in society and the government does not entertain violence against women.”

Pili Athumani is a farmer who attended the meeting. She talks about abused women in her village who must steal food to provide for their families.

Confidently, Mrs. Athumani says, “I am not afraid [to speak out]. I want men to be fair in agriculture, for them to share equally what they produce.”

Mrs. Issakungu relies on her small plot of land to provide for her children. So far, she has made little or no profit from her farm, and struggles to pay school fees. Last season, she harvested only three bags of sorghum from a quarter-hectare plot.

But she is not discouraged. She has learned a lot from the farming information on the radio and believes that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

She wants her experiences to help other women, and encourages them to speak up about their issues. Mrs. Issakungu says, “A woman should raise her voice because, first of all, it is her right. [By raising] their voices … women [may find] solutions to make life better.”

This article was originally published on August 24, 2015.