21 November 2012

Tanzania: Women Must Struggle To Be At The Top - Professor

Photo: Staton Winter/UN
Women celebrating international women's day (file photo).

ALTHOUGH the number of female employees in most institutions is almost equal to that of their male counterparts, only a few are in decision-making positions.

Most women workers hold menial jobs that do not attract good pay. A professor with the University of Dar es Salaam, Mr Chris Mauki, told participants at a Women Network Forum in the city early this week that most women do not appear to command enough confidence and self-esteem.

Yet women must work hard and emancipate themselves from being vulnerable to gender stereotypes which are deeply embedded in the societal fabric. It is unfortunate that some traditions militate that women should remain inferior to men. So, while working women have open opportunities to make it to the top, most of them lack the will to struggle.

At the lowest rung of the working women's ladder are domestic workers most of whom are young women. These are virtually in servitude. They slog it out for a living in private homes, bars, guest houses, hotels, shops and in the agriculture sector. These workplaces offer lowly jobs with menial wages. The minimum wage in the agriculture sector, for example, is 65,000/- a month.

Proprietors of bars, guest houses, hotels and shops pay anything between 50,000/- and 80,000/-. Women in domestic service get starvation wages ranging between 20,000/ and 50,000/-. And there is a crop of domestic workers and barmaids receive nothing at all.

The reasons here are outrageous. Some domestic workers are not paid because they eat at their employers' table. And most deplorable, the so-called barmaids are 'allowed' to engage in prostitution for a fee with their patrons at the bars. In Tanzania, the law does not regard domestic workers as employees. They are actually excluded from the scope of labour legislation.

A direct effect of this is that they are very vulnerable. While we encourage working women who have the opportunity to go up the ladder and attain decision-making positions, we call upon the government to protect women at the lowest rung of the ladder from ruthless exploitation by their employers.

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