TANZANIA: IN a historic move, Tanzanian indigenous daughter, Ms Mesha Singolyo, has been picked to serve at a prestigious global widow rights champion organisation, raising the country’s profile high.
Ms Mesha, who in 2022 scooped a national ultimate award for her exceptional struggle against the regressive Maasai practices of ‘matrimonial slavery’, has been appointed as a country director for the Global Fund for Widows (GFW).
“Mesha Singolyo will now serve as country director for Global fund for Widows. Congratulations to Mesha for her well-earned promotion” reads the statement from the GFW.
The Global Fund for Widows is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to empowering widows and female heads of households to overcome poverty through achieving financial stability, self-sufficiency and accountability across the developing world.
Founded by Ms Heather Ibrahim-Leathers, who is active advocate for the rights of widows and child widows at the United Nations, presenting regularly including at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, at the Commission on the Status of Women, GFW has its footprint in Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Egypt, Cameroon to mention, but a few.
She will lead the GFW operations in Tanzania, mainly fostering widows’ rights, representing the organisation in policy dialogues, and relationship with the government and other stakeholders.
Ms Mesha, a dedicated women’s rights activist, who fights against all forms of gender-based violence within the Maasai pastoral community, was born and raised among the Sonjo community, one of Africa’s most endangered indigenous groups inhabiting in northern Tanzania.
“I’ve received this appointment with humility. I thank God, the Tanzania government and the GFW. The work ahead is to address historical injustices for widows in Tanzania to give them a new hope and create social equity,” Ms. Mesha said.
She also extended her gratitude to the International Collaborative for Science Education and Environment, (ICSEE) the American and Tanzanian corporations jointly carrying out a stoves and solar project.
Dubbed Master Stoves, the ICSEE project, which Ms Mesha worked with as its consultant focuses on improving the livelihood of the Maasai community and its environment.
Ms Mesha belongs to Sonjos group who live along with the Maasai community and their population does not exceed 30,000, according to the national census.
Like the Hadzabe ethnic group, a surviving relic of the hunter-gatherers remaining on earth, the Sonjo community basically survives on what nature provides particularly wild fruits, honey, wild meat and a little bit of agricultural crops.
In her short working stint, Ms Mesha has reached out to 1,050 women in Arusha Region. With her new post, she has the chance for touching more targeted individuals and groups.
Ms Mesha is a civil servant, serving in various dockets as a district youth development officer, education officer, community development officer and a Torch Race coordinator for Monduli District in Arusha Region.
GFW says widows in the developing world suffer three main violations of their rights, namely disinheritance, discrimination and harmful practices.
“Widows are still prevented from rightful inheritance, including things brought into marriage or contributed during married years,” reads the GFW statement.
In terms of discrimination, GFW says widows are prevented from accessing rights and government entitlements, deprived of access to justice, and face social stigma, shame and taboo.
“Widows are grappling with harmful practices such as degrading and dehumanising cleansing rites and are subjected to intense sexual violence, among others,” the GFW document reads in part.