Research Paper on Women in Tanzania
Women in Tanzania number 11,368312 out of the total of23,174,336 million people according to the census. Historically, women in Tanzania have served as the appendages of men, and decisions on major family and tribal issues have been man’s domain.
Traditionally, the family and social structure were such that men were considered superior, women inferior, men active and rational, women emotional. In the predominantly patrilineal peasant society of Tanzania, women were assigned to distinct roles.
The division of labor, even prior to colonization, was such that women were shackled to individual households while men had opportunities for mobility and links with the world outside their immediate environment. In the patrilineal societies that made up most of what is now Tanzania, land rights rested with the man, who either owned or controlled its use. Women were usually given land by their husbands to use for the production of food.
The male head of the clan or the extended family controlled the means of production and the allocation of labor (wives, youths, etc) at his disposal. In reference to the colonial period, the male head also controlled the product of labour. So, women were considered as a possession, a source of labor and of wealth earned by their children. Nevertheless, some studies have argued that under the traditional system, women enjoyed a relatively large degree of autonomy.
In some tribes, for example, a matrilineal line of descent meant women held independent and unconditional rights to land. In the years since independence and especially since the Arusha Declaration of 1967, Tanzania has endeavored to create a framework for achieving greater equality among its citizens. Every citizen has a right to participate in and benefit from the economic and social development of the country. The need for sexual equality followed the realization that women were unequal to men in every respect.
By virtue of their sex, they (women) suffered from inequalities that had nothing to do with their contribution to the family welfare. Indeed, sexual inequality “is inconsistent with our socialist conception of the equality of all human beings and the right of all to live in such security and freedom as is consistent with equal security and freedom for all others”.
Yet many reforms, as argued in various studies, have failed to take hold because they have been introduced in “a hostile environment where male dominance is an assumption and admired heritage and where each step aimed at its demise has been interpreted as a decline in female morals, even by those in government circles. Although the law offers rights to men and women, there still exist legal provisions which do not work in the interest of women. For example, laws relating to marriage and divorce, employment and the application of customary law work to women’s disadvantage. Women are still without land tenure rights; they have no guaranteed custody of children; and, if married, women cannot become independent members of cooperatives.