Mashangazi! Looks like We need Self Defense Classes!
Greetings from Queen Kunta of Meru Land a.k.a Fancy Kunta Octopus. Windy Day in Dar es Salaam, but I woke up to Professor Amina Mama, African Feminist and scholar blessing my spirit with her refusal to accept the ‘Womyn Empowerment’ term when speaking at one of the panel discussions she attended on African Feminism organized by Oxford Africa
Now relating this to the Tanzanian Context, and the headlines we have had this week and prior, one will succumb to doom and might say there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
As others speak of 1st Wave, 2nd Wave , 3rd Wave and 4th wave of Feminism, my amateur feminist lens in Tanzania currently has trouble settling with what our movement identifies with and whether or not there is specificity, or if we should have one, and if so what inequalities are we benchmarking on.
I grew up with the groundbreaking movement that came with the ‘Beijing Conference’ and the fact that our very own Tanzanian Getrude Mongela was a pioneer and the Secretary General of the 4th World Womyn Conference. I was in Secondary school then and I remember teachers using it as an example of womyn empowerment and gender equality and that it was an affirmation of the long awaited movement.
Critical areas of concern that were agreed on for gender equality and empowerment; The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on womyn, Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to education and training, Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to health care and related services, Violence against womyn, The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on womyn, including those living under foreign occupation, Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources, Inequality between men and womyn in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels, Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of womyn, Lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of womyn, Stereotyping of womyn and inequality in womyn’s access to and participation in all communication systems, especially in the media, Gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in the safeguarding of the environment, Persistent discrimination against and violation of the rights of the girl child.
So from the Beijing movement, I identified organisations like Tanzania Gender Networking Program- TGNP and TAMWA, and TAWLA as really strong actors in spearheading this movement at home. I looked up to womyn like Ananilea Nkya, Prof Ruth Meena, Usu Mallya, Halima Shariff, Anna Sangai, and my own mother, Alice Shamge who worked at HakiArdhi, advocating for land rights for womyn. Yes I can name drop my own mother..*rolls eyes. These womyn were so vocal, always on the headlines speaking their mind and calling out the womyn oppressive laws and policies in different avenues.
TGNP I think to date remains sort of like the main reference point for the ‘Gender Equality’ movement, with other organisations gaining prominence in different demographics and areas of interest.
From that wave, We have had the womyn’s wings of political parties, with the prominent sorority houses being UWT and BAWACHA. Some say this really solidified womyn’s presence and vocalization of the right and need for womyn participation in politics although some might argue to what extent and perhaps from their very inception they were meant to be administrative pacification of womyn. This can further be debated based on the data we have on womyn voting and womyn in leadership positions from LGA’s up to the Central Government and across at Institutional and Authority Levels. Anna Makinda, Asha Migiro and Samia Suluhu’s names are always thrown in my face when we have this dialogue, but as my Dada Mishy so well articulated in her recent -Love Note to Our Beloved Mama Samia Suluhu , we refuse the dangers of a single story especially one that we are yet to see any trickle down effect.
As quoted in The Citizen, March 9th 2016, “ Gender Parity will be prioritised as long am there”- She was speaking at the International Womyn’s Day Celebrations held at Serena in Dar es Salaam. But what has she done really? or maybe the question is, what CAN she do?
I must say the day my heart truly sank, was when I heard the former first lady Mama Salma Kikwete, who by the way runs a school for underprivileged girls and a women empowerment organisation called WAMA, stand up in her first address as appointed parliamentarian, and say — YES WE SHOULD EXPEL TEENAGE MOTHERS, and continue to reinforce the ban to re-entry. I Shook..my shoulders fell in despair as I realised the champions we were looking up to were in fact on the other side of the line. This is a womyn who held the ‘First Lady’ title for 10 years. We still look up to her to ‘influence’ policy and socio-economic issues. What country do you know appeals a decision to revoke an early marriage law? I mean seriously? Well Tanzania is that country! who does this law serve? certainly not the girl child and certainly not the society at large..aren’t we the ones who also chant educate a girl, you have educated the society?
Now add a reflection of the current government, This photo is from the swearing in held on the 14th December 2015.
This is the recently sworn in group of ministers , July 2018. Not a single womyn, and in their defense, most had been reshuffled so it wasn’t really about new recruits! LIARS.
Apart from this..the current situation in our beloved Tanganyika with teenage pregnancies..I say Tanganyika because Zanzibar has made strides in this area. I Don’t have the data on womyn in leadership, but the fact that they do not ban teenage mothers from re-entry in schools means they are using various sustainable approaches towards keeping the girl child in school therefore minimizing the likelihood of her and her child falling into an intergenerational cycle of poverty, or as some may call it situational poverty.
I talk about this passionately everyday because truly, we will not be able to see sustainable development without gender parity. We will not see substantial decline in poverty lines if we continue to leave groups of people behind subjecting them to the poorest quintile.
We have a rise of female entrepreneurs across Africa right now. From Womyn Farmers in the rural areas to womyn in business in the value chain, womyn producers and suppliers. Mechanisms and approaches like womyn groups and the famous sacccos and vicobas have helped streamline micro finance to once considered inaccessible groups. So we are in fact in the era of Womyn Claiming Back Their Power and saying, if you won’t give us a seat at the table or make room for another seat, that’s fine, we shall STAND, about time we became dominant anyways, but best believe we will show up.
MASHANGAZI( Swahili word for Aunty) has been trending this last week in Tanzania, After Our beloved president, Dr John Joseph Magufuli said this and I quote- Wapo waliokuwa wanataka umaarufu kule Bungeni wakawa wanasema watafanya fujo, nikamwambia Waziri Mkuu waache wafanye fujo — Nitaanzia kwenye Jimbo lake kama kuna shangazi zake nitaanza kupiga hao
“There are those who are seeking popularity in the parliament and were saying they will cause unrest, I told the Prime Minister, let them..I will start with their constituencies, and if their aunties are there, I will start with them.”
Question, why ‘Mashangazi’ aunties? Question, why Womyn? Question, why should aunties pay for other people allegedly wanting to cause unrest? Question, why specifically identify and target this particular group in the society? Question, does giving such a statement in front of a newly sworn in group of ‘male ministers’ reaffirm you are a male chauvinist? eeeey wenaa..these are just questions!
So where are we with Gender Parity and Womyn Rights in Tanzania? Clearly us Mashangazis, we need Self Defence Classes just in case some taekwondo is sprung on us for things that we had nothing to do with. Come #16daysofactivism in November I wonder if we will use this statement as an example. I wonder if other African feminists will use this as an example in the 4th wave of feminism that is fighting against sexual violence and gender based violence. I wonder if mashangazi do get beaten up, do we qualify to enter the #MeToo Movement on GBV?
There was another beautiful meeting held last week on the SDGs and Tanzania’s commitment and I ask myself do the indicators ever consider incidents like these and what they mean to the systemic, societal, political and economic framework that is impeding efforts towards achieving Gender Equality? Or do we comply to the edifice of complicity and stick to checking boxes?
So What does it mean to be a Womyn in Today’s Tanzania? Clearly we need Taekwondo and other self defence mechanisms just in case.Self defense mechanisms and tools like A constitution with our name on it! It is yet to arrive but oh so near! Legal and Socio-Economic frameworks that will see womyn get equal access to POWER, economic opportunities. That will see womyn rise without fear of being ‘beaten down’ for being vocal or supporting those who are. That will see the culprits apprehended for their crimes and not for it to be pinned on us or for us to be made to suffer for other people, even if it is used as a ‘mere example’ in a speech. That will see those who utter such threats be held accountable as they should be without immunity.
Why we are yet to take back our power when we make up of more than half the population is beyond me everyday. Patriarchy..you have planted your roots oh so deep but behold..there is another tree growing right beside you and it’s roots will cut off your air and water supply leaving you to wither and fall. Mashangazi Are Coming.