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Rewards come from doing good

Rewards come from doing good

Actually, next month will give her nine years since she started her working life here in the city as a volunteer for legal affairs at the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA).

Then, the bulk of her duties involved drafting official documents together with assisting women and children clients in legal matters.  

In 2008 she became a full-time employee of the organisation, where she stayed until last December. She told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ that although she was sitting as Executive Director there, it was the right time for her to take on slightly different challenges. These, she believes, she’ll get at Action Aid International Tanzania, where she has been working since last month as a Women’s Rights Adviser.  

Ms Mavenjina did not choose to live here because of work. She got married to a local man when studying at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). Her husband, an engineer by profession, is currently working at the UDSM Computing Centre. They had met on campus, both being members of the same fellowship there. She had come to study here as part of an exchange programme between the three East African countries: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 

Today they have three boys: twins in Standard Six and one in Standard Three. As a mother and professional she acknowledges having a tight schedule at work but tries as much as possible to give her children at least 15 minutes of her time before leaving for the office in the Mikocheni suburb of Dar es Salaam in the mornings. This she thinks is better than putting them in a boarding school. On days when she gets home early, which are not as often as she would like, she makes sure they are the centre of attention. At weekends the family also gets the biggest opportunity to be together.  

“Over the weekend, Saturday and Sundays, I try to ensure that I get time to sit and talk with them so that I get to know what is going on in their lives. If I have to go to work on one of these days, I like to go with them so that they can get to know what I’m doing, and then they don’t keep on complaining as to what is keeping me away, when I’m not with them,” she explained. 

The soft-speaking lady told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ the fact that her children have seen the office, they will be able to visualise her sitting on her chair there doing this or that and why she’s doing it. She takes such steps because she does not want to be someone, who talks about human rights when she’s denying her own children their rights. That for her would be a contradiction to all she stands for, therefore, completely undesirable. 

Her husband despite being extremely busy has agreed to have an on-going balancing act between them, where the children are concerned. On the days when she has extra work to do, he tries to return home early and work from there. He doesn’t complain because he knows the nature of her work.   One of the biggest moments for the entire family she says, which they look forward to, is going to visit her mother in Uganda.

On occasions, when either her or her husband is having an extremely busy schedule, the December trip to Uganda has to be postponed until the following year. The entire family usually goes together for a minimum of two weeks.  Ms Mavenjina is the sixth out of 10 siblings: five of each gender. Her father, now late, was a civil servant, who reached the positions of Under Secretary and Regional Commissioner.

Her mother was a magistrate and later got into politics. She was a minister for Public Service and Community Affairs there. She was quite prepared to share some of her fond memories of growing-up during the conversation.   “I grew-up in a normal family. I don’t know how I can say it but our father would sit and talk to each of us, not like us who are too busy to talk to our children. He would leave home by seven thirty and be home by five in the evening.

He would have time to check on our homework and see what we had done. That is what used to make me pay attention in class because I knew at the end of the day I would be called by him and asked to say all I learnt in school that day,” she explained.  This, she says helped her to have a good memory and know that she had to pay attention to get what is being said fast because she would be asked in the evening. She claims even until today all ten siblings still have a close network although everyone is busy doing their own things. However, when one of them has a problem they are quick to assist.   

Although she was born in northern Uganda, where the family home is, she grew up in Kampala. She talked one of the biggest differences she has noted between the two countries is Tanzania being a more peaceful place. One visible proof of this she mentioned was the way a policeman in Uganda is dressed-up for battle, as opposed to here.  “This affects the economic situation in that because it’s peaceful here and people are used to socialism, there is a way they may relax and take things for granted because they know some relative would help them.

While in Uganda it’s different. If you don’t work and do things for yourself then the whole system will knock you out. But now with the cost of living going up, things are changing,” she suggested.  Ms Mavenjina had gone to government primary and secondary schools there in Kampala and was chosen as the best Form Six student from Makerere College School, which is how she was chosen to come here on an exchange programme in 1997.

When she finished her first degree at the UDSM, there were no law schools here at the time so she went to do her post-graduate diploma and legal practice at the Law Development Centre in Uganda, so that she could become an advocate.   “As an individual I feel that working at TAWLA has helped me to see how to help women better from understanding them better.

You may study law because you think it’s just sitting in a law firm drafting documents and making your money, but it is only when you meet face to face with women that you can see how to help them. Here at Action Aid I also get this opportunity,” she said.  She had joined TAWLA, as a volunteer in 2003, three years after graduating, basically to use her legal expertise to help women and children instead of staying at home.

In 2006 through a joint agreement between the organisation and the Netherland embassy, she got the chance to go for her Masters programme in Business and Trade Law, to specialise in Business Transaction at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.   On her return to Tanzania she resumed her duties at the TAWLA only this time on full-time basis. She feels women here have achieved a lot but still have a long way to go, so should not get complacent.

Looking at the bigger picture is proof of that for there are still many discriminative laws against them. However, the kind of energy and effort coming from local women lawyers keeps her optimistic that it can only get better. Further, she says that when you do something good for others, you get sense of satisfaction.    “It makes a difference when you see legal aid clients that you’ve assisted move from one level of poverty to another. There are two of my clients who I assisted in 2003. One has a supermarket and the other a thriving business today. 

I really feel good knowing that I have helped them make the difference,” she added.  When Ms Mavenjina finished law school she was expecting her first child, so after giving birth and nursing him for about a year, she started working on a part-time basis so as to balance between her professional work and taking care of her home. She thought it was better to volunteer rather than just sit at home. It was after her children started school and she had got her masters degree that she decided to continue with her career full-time.  Now at Action Aid Tanzania she has opened a new chapter in her life! 

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Author: IMAN MANI

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