Speaking during the Generation Equality Panel discussion in Dodoma;
Rebeca Gyumi raised the need to continue delivering for women and girls in Tanzania © Tsitsi Matope/ UN Women
You were a panelist in the Generation Equality session that focused on strengthening partnerships for inclusivity, to Realize Women’s Rights for an Equal Future. How can Tanzania overcome barriers to the empowerment of women, leveraging on the court decision to ban child marriage?
When you look at the process that led to the decision by the Appeal Court, you will realize that this is what the Generation Equality Campaign is advocating for, which is to bring young women’s rights activists on board the main train of the women’s rights movement. Together with many other young activists, we bring on board new strategies, which can help us to deal with the unfinished business of gender equality.
Importantly, as young activists, we are keen to learn from other generations of activists. I believe for progress to be made, that is what we need; a much stronger, smart and diverse women’s rights movement, that will work closely with the government and other actors. I am happy that one of the panelists in our Generation Equality discussion was the Director for Gender in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, which shows the government’s commitment towards the realization of the rights of women and girls in my country.
One of the barriers to the empowerment of women and girls we need to address is the deep-rooted discriminatory practices that result from socialization and a mindset that does not appreciate the significant role that women can play for the industrialization and economic growth of our country. We can overcome that through actions, including the court’s decision, alongside a series of activities that seek to change that mindset.
While we welcome the decision, we are also aware that it does not automatically translate to ending child marriage. We have learnt this from what is happening with the female genital mutilation practice, which despite being criminalized, is still being done in some communities. We therefore need to invest more in preventive mechanisms that aim to transform behavior in line with the legal provisions.
I would also like to emphasize that while the Court of Appeal ruling can be used as a precedent against offenders, it is when the law changes that we can make some progress in the prosecution of cases. While we wait for the review of the law, we also need to educate the communities, so they understand its implications. Looking at the girls, they need to understand that this ruling has empowered them to take action and defend their rights to education and a healthy and happy childhood.
Following the ruling, what next for Rebeca Gyumi?
There are new opportunities already and we are grateful to UN Women for launching the Generation Equality Campaign, because it goes right to the heart of our issues here in Tanzania. I see the decision fueling the women’s rights agenda, which will require all generations of women and girls to work together and consolidate our gains, and importantly, plan for the future of the movement. I think real work starts now and we need to seize the moment and ensure as we celebrate the 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action next year, we have in hand our master plan going forward.
The Generation Equality Campaign has created the much-needed space for further engagement with various actors including the government, the private sector, community-based organisations and schools. We need the Generation Equality Campaign to facilitate community-based approaches targeting various audiences including traditional and religious leaders and have a critical mass of male champions in the remote parts of the country.