6 December 2012

Tanzania: Gender Violence Harms Women, Girls

THE Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Anne Makinda, has recalled with bitterness how she was violently mistreated when contesting a parliamentary seat for the first time in 1995.

She now urges fellow legislators to press the government to intensify the fight against gender-based violence (GBV). "I was harassed to the extreme. I still hold a clear memory of the chain of incidents. Sometimes I fail to hold back tears when I remember some of the tragedies," she explained.

She explained that her challengers during her first parliamentary seat campaign told her or her audience that she was incapable of leading because she was a woman. She found this to be an intolerable affront but plucked up courage and continued with the struggle. Ms Makinda said that the mistreatment she was subjected to often drove her close to shedding tears.

Without exerting confidence and determination she says, she would not have been what she is now. Ms Makinda said this in Dar es Salaam when officiating at a seminar that had brought together parliamentarians from East, Central and Southern Africa.

The lawmakers were exchanging ideas on how best to prevent violence against women and girls. She told the participants that as legislators they were supposed to be in the frontline in the campaign against gender based violence. She said that legislators were not only entitled to make laws that would see the government taking measures against those engaging in GBV but were also required to make follow-up to ensure progress was being made in the crusade.

"We as legislators need to know our roles in the society in fighting GBV. The vice is on the increase despite the presence of laws against it. It is imperative that we hold the government accountable over the problem," she said. Ms Makinda, who doubles as MP for Njombe South (CCM), urged members of the public (men and women) to help the nation eliminate anti-social acts against women and girls.

She insisted that without joint efforts from both genders the campaign would not succeed. She added that more than 60 per cent of women in the country are subjected to gender based violence from time to time. The incidents include assaults and some forms of discrimination in education and other spheres of life.

The Speaker said that history shows that countries with high gender based violence cases were characterized by underdevelopment because women comprised more than 50 per cent of the population. Ms Makinda also expressed pessimism in connection with the work of gender activists in the country.

She said that they were virtually asleep and hardly doing anything to help the campaign against gender based violence. She also blamed the government and members of the public generally saying that they were leading in "empty talks" that would not help in eliminating the problem.

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