8 December 2012

Tanzania: Carolyn - Working With 'Natives' Rewarding

YOUNG and intelligent Carolyn Kandusi, quit the glamorous corporate world to work for pastoralists and indigenous communities in Arusha, a business she says gives her satisfaction to the full.

While she is based in Arusha, most of the times she travels to remote areas, organizing advocacy meetings with the pastoralists, namely Maasai, Taturu and Hadzabe, also known as hunters and gatherers.

Unlike in the corporate world where meetings are held in air-conditioned boardrooms, for her the task is different, just under the shade of trees. "I had to adjust my wardrobe to accommodate traditional attires to match with the Maasai and Hadzabe," she says.

Carolyn joined PINGOs Forum a year ago after quitting TANESCO where she worked as a supervisor of a call centre in Dar es Salaam. PINGOs works for pastoralists and hunters/ gatherers to advocate for the equitable recognition of their rights and their livelihoods.

The overall programme goal of PINGOs is to have a just society and sustainable livelihood for pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities in Tanzania. She graduated in 2009 from Tumaini University with a BA in Mass Communication, Public Relations and Audience Research.

When she is not in Arusha or in her remote constituency, then Carolyn travels to Dar es Salaam for media advocacy in the main stream media. Her focus is on women in those communities whom she says suffer more discrimination than their male counterparts.

Maasai, Taturu and Hadzabe women face more discrimination than any other, and also lack recognition from their own communities, despite their enormous contribution in the search for a livelihood. For instance, Carolyn says, on average, women in pastoralist communities are the first to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and retire at midnight after cooking, fetching water and firewood, caring for livestock including milking them.

Men wake up at 7:30 a.m. and go to bed at 21:30 p.m. having spent most of their day time on leisure going to town centres and drinking local brew. In Hadzabe communities, women are responsible for collecting fruits and roots for food, men are responsible for hunting and harvest of honey from the forest. What does it take to work with indigenous communities?

Carolyn says it requires humility and passion, and gives an example of her longest non- stop trip of 3,773kms, last year that took her 13 days from Arusha, Sumbawanga, Kilosa, and Same in Kilimanjaro touring pastoralists communities.

"I had to learn introduction to Maasai and Hadzabe languages and their customs to fit in their community," she says. What are the future plans? "I feel like this job has given me a focus. I dedicate my life in this cause-working for women in marginalized communities- My vision is working to empower such women so that they can have a voice to demand their basic rights."

The reality is even though women are still marginalized all over the country but those from pastoralists, hunters and gatherers suffers more. How about leisure? "I read self help books because they teach me many realities something that helps me to cope in my job.

I make friends easily. I like inspiring people to help them to unleash the power within them for improving their lives," she says. What do the Maasai do in particular? They practice polygamy mainly for one reason to have more children as a source of labour for taking care of the family herds of cattle. With Hadzabe or Tindiga, the mother is the custodian of children while men go for hunting and fruit gathering.

For this case what we table in our conference rooms as problems for this communities they are unifying factors. It is very important to understand them from the grassroot and not by reading a book or hearing factious stories about them.

Women in a pastoral community have no decisions with regard to cultural and traditional practices. They are victims of cultural and traditional injustices such as FGM, forced marriages, torture and different humiliations. Women traditionally must be subordinate to men in everything since women have no rights over men in everything in their lifestyles.

Domestic violence is rampant among pastoral and hunters-gatherers communities. Women are the marginal group compared to any other groups in these societies. Women are subjected to violence including property owners, women don't own property.

Men are the decision makers in property .utilization at the family level and community in general. In pastoral communities like Maasai and Barbaig all livestock belong to men. If the husband dies, all property including livestock will be taken care by the brothers of the husband immediately after death, However, the case is different if the wife has grown up male children then the wife is left with the property under the ownership of male children.

Forced and child marriages for both girls and boys are highly practiced. Boys as young as 14 and 16 are forced to marry while girls is 9 to 14 years old. Old men of 60 and 80 years also marry young girls, something that has seen some of them become widows in a short while or face separation.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still considered as one of ways to raise the status of women from childhood to adulthood. Separation and divorce when a woman separate with her husband, she is sent away empty handed, she leaves behind everything including her children in case of divorce women are mistreated.

A woman must be subordinate to her husband and all other men. Women are severely punished (beaten) when they do wrongs but men are not except fines. This makes women live in worries. Education segregation between boys and girls with boys seen valuable than girls.

Political marginalization women are not considered leaders. Many husbands restrict their wives to attend meetings even deny them to participate politics. What should be done to reduce or end this discrimination against women in those communities?

Carolyn believes that the indigenous tribes need civic education on human rights, gender equity. She is of the opinion that establishing gender working groups to work at the community level teaching, raising awareness, influencing and mobilizing the community against gender injustices within the community will change the lives of the local tribes.

For the gender injustices like prohibiting girls to access education, domestic violence, women torture and FGM more advocacy is needed but more importantly the law should take its course, she concludes.

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