International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Working with male champions in ending violence against women in Tanzania

Date: Friday, December 28, 2018

In Tanzania fighting to end violence against women and girls has become a way of life not only for the police and the courts of law but also for the men in communities such as those found in Kigoma.

Kigoma is situated in the north western Tanzania, an area close to the border with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

According to Yassin Ally, the executive director of Kivulini Women’s Rights in Kigoma, violence against women and girls is slowly becoming old fashioned, and even an embarrassment in some enlightened neighbourhoods. His organisation is partnering with UN Women in projects working to end violence against women and girls.

Kigoma is one of the areas that was this year selected for the launch of the 16 Days of activism against based violence campaign to intensify efforts to protect its women and girls and to harness creation of peaceful communities. However, importantly, it is also an area that has come a long way in its fight to end gender-based violence. The ugly face of violence can be traced to families torn apart; struggling female-headed households; and girls deprived of higher education.

A total 61 percent of women, age 15-49 have experienced sexual, or emotional violence committed by their husband or partner; with 33.4 percent suffering violence in the 12-months preceding the Demographic and Health survey of 2015/16.

Yassin Ally, the executive director of Kivulini Women’s Rights in Kigoma. Photo: UN Women/ Tsitsi Matope
Yassin Ally, the executive director of Kivulini Women’s Rights in Kigoma. Photo: UN Women/ Tsitsi Matope

Through the generous funding from the Governments of Norway and Sweden, in April 2018, Kivulini Women’s Rights started implementing the one-year projects in Kasuru, Kakonko and Kibombo.

The initiative aims to build communities’ capacity to prevent and respond to violence. Following some months working with the local communities, Ally said the attitudes of people are starting to change, with some men also working as champions of peace. 

“We are seeing some change. The male champions now view all forms of violence on women and girls as a betrayal to their families and the country’s commitment towards protecting the rights of women. They now believe that it is every woman’s right to live their lives to the fullest and in peace,” says Ally.

Following the partnership with UN Women, up to 300 community volunteers, including over 50 male activists have received some trainings that have initiated them into becoming champions against gender-based violence.

The campaign in Kigoma also targets the police, local government, health care workers, teachers and court officials in the ongoing community engagements aiming to improve service delivery.

“Our engagements with the communities showed that survivors of violence prefer to report in an environment where they can feel safe and be assured of efficiency in the delivery of other services related to health, in addition to ensuring timely delivery of justice.” 

Uniquely, this year’s 16 Days campaign sent a clear message that even men from the corridors of power are also on board the fight to end gender-based violence.

Photo: UN Women/ Deepika Nath
Photo: UN Women/ Deepika Nath

The participation of the Second Vice President of Zanzibar, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi in the Zanzibar campaign and Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa in the Dodoma launch, demonstrated that issues of protecting and empowering women and girls are on top of Tanzania’s political agenda.

This political behaviour can also be traced to Tanzania’s Five-Year Development Plan covering the mainland and the MKUZA III Successor Strategy for Zanzibar (2016-2020) – blue prints which advance the rights of women to live free from violence and to participate equally in the development of their country.

Speaking during the 16 Days campaign launch in Zanzibar, the UN Women Representative in Tanzania, Hodan Addou welcomed the participation of senior government officials; One UN; the civil society; the private sector; and local communities in all the key activities. She explained this reflected the importance of pushing for gender equality in all sectors, that is if Tanzania is to make significant progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“I believe through strengthened partnerships we can improve the quality of lives of many women and girls in Tanzania. This is important because a win for women and girls is a win for Tanzania,” Addou says.

She emphasised the need to create a more enabling environment, free of violence, alongside investing in girls’ education and increased development initiatives for all women to enable their full participation in the development of the country.