Tanzanian society is largely patriarchal. In a patriarchal society, girls and women are under the control and authority of men and are often accorded a lower social status. The high levels of violence against women and the higher HIV infection rates among girls and women are tragic consequences of this female disempowerment. As an example, in many areas of Tanzania girls are socialized to become home-keepers and child-bearers, placing less value on their educational and economic attainment.
As girls and women throughout the country have gained access to more formal education, they are challenging the customary division of labour. But obstacles persist for many women in both urban and rural Tanzania. Often when an activity undertaken by a woman becomes successful, her husband, spouse or a male relative tries to take control of the activity or the money it has generated.
According to the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS), only 30 percent of currently married and employed women are paid cash for their work compared to 56 percent of men. The situation is even worse for rural Tanzanian women, where only 28 percent of them are allowed to decide on how their cash earnings are spent (compared to 48 percent of women in urban areas). Decisions on household purchases are often made solely by men (57 percent) and rarely solely by women (7 percent).
This unequal access to earned financial resources has a negative impact not only at the economic level, but it also affects health outcomes for men, women, and children. The TDHS reports that only 15 percent of women make decisions about their own health compared to 66 percent of men.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme – Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures – is an excellent opportunity for men to stand up for gender equity in their homes, communities, and across our country. Women and girls have a voice and should be given the chance to participate in decisions that will affect them and their communities.
Men can stand up for gender equity in their homes by jointly making decisions with their partners, attending sexual and reproductive health services together, sharing household duties, and supporting their partner’s decisions about her health. To support gender equity in their communities, men can talk to their peers about the positive impacts of a world where men and women are equal. They can also intervene when they see an act of violence against a woman.
In our system of patriarchy, men’s undeniable influence that often prohibits the advancement of women can actually be the catalyst to change. Transforming men’s attitudes and encouraging men to support and contribute to women’s political, social, and economic equity will accelerate change for the whole country. No longer can we see women’s empowerment as an agenda where men are not part of the picture.Together we can create a thriving Tanzania that is built on the notion of equity and equality for all.
Muganyizi Mutta is a Communications Officer and submitted this piece on behalf of the CHAMPION project.