LIWOPAC joins fight against childhood pregnancy

 

Here is a girl, call her Miss X. She looks young and aged less than 18 years.  She is also pregnant. Child pregnancy seems to be a normal occurrence here in Lindi.

I walk closer and ask her about her pregnancy. She looks at me in a doubting manner. It appears she didn’t expect any question from me. After a while, she answers: “I am doing fine.” Miss X is 16 years old. Her real name is Sharifa. She is a resident of Kilwa Masoko in Lindi Region of Southern Tanzania.

Shariffa left school when she was 11 and got married in the same year. Her marriage was short-lived. . The husband chose to escape. There is a Swahili proverb that states: “Something you don’t understand is comparable to total darkness.” Actually, her current pregnancy is not the first one. She already has a two year-old baby at home.

There are many young mothers like Shariffa in Southern Tanzania. It is said that the social environment, culture and traditions are key factors in early marriages and child pregnancy. Poor family management and the quest for wealth by most parents have forced many girls to leave their homes and get married. Some of them are aged less than 18 years.

Godfrey Zambi, the Lindi Regional Commissioner, when asked to comment on the issue, says that child pregnancy and early marriages are caused by irresponsive parenting and poverty. “Families prefer forcing young girls to get married for the sake receiving dowry.”

The local initiation traditions commonly known as jando and unyago also cause early marriages and childhood pregnancy. “Jando and Unyagoceremonies are mainly for youth initiation. During the ceremonies, the youth are trained to control their sexual appetite,” Zambi says, adding that Liwale, Kilwa, Nachingwea and Lindi Rural are districts where the ceremonies are quite common.

There is a scientifically proven fact that child pregnancy, especially for girls aged below 18, can led to the abnormal children and cause deaths of young mothers. Girls aged below 18 are considered immature for reproduction.. Current records show that there were 32 pregnancies of girls aged below 18 years in Lindi in the year 2016. Among them were 13 primary school girls.. "We are working with NGOs based in Lindi to provide education on safe marriages and also engage the society to know problems caused by child pregnancy and early marriages,” the Lindi RC says.

On the other hand, the Lindi Women Paralegal Aid Center (LIPAWOC), which is an FCS grantee, conducts various seminars on women and children rights. The LIPAWOC director, Cosma Bulu, said in an interview with this correspondent that LIPAWOC had identified poverty and poor knowledge of women on reproduction issues as key causes of child pregrancy and early marriages.

Bulu adds that the divorce of parents is yet another factor that leads towards child pregnancy and early marriages. “There is high rate of divorce in this region, which both influences and forces many girls to go for early marriages.

FCS’s Guest Writer Sylvester Hanga visited and talked to Charles Lwabulala, the Secretary-General of Iringa Civil Society Organization (ICISO) about the network’s engagement in the East African Community Integration initiative supported by the Foundation

 

Q 1. Briefly describe ICISO and its mission and key objectives?

Lwabulala: Iringa Civil Society Organizations [ICISO- Umbrella] was established in 2000 by CSOs including the Community Based Organizations [CBOs], Faith Based Organizations [FBOs] and Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] involved in various activities of different sectors in Iringa region. The organization was registered by the government of Tanzania as NGO with registration number S.O. No. 10966 on September 2001, with a compliance certificate No. 00001548 which was issued  on 12th December 2013. ICISO operates in the whole region of Iringa. Currently the umbrella has more than 112 members and they are spread all over the region.

Our vision is to see a sustainable and vibrant engagement between CSOs and the government in Iringa region. Our Mission is to build solidarity among CSOs in Iringa region in order to accelerate development and promote equitable economic, social and cultural growth for improving the quality of life through a range of short and long term strategies. In addition, our goal is to act as an umbrella organization representing the interests of the Civil Society [CBOs, FBOs, NGOs] and serve the community.

Our general objectives are to coordinate programmes and activities of CSOs of Iringa region, to facilitate communication system and dissemination of information to stakeholders and provide the capacity building to CSOs in the region including OD, Policy, Good Governance, Advocacy and Lobbying.

Q.  ICISO is a member of the EACSOF Secretariat. Briefly describe the Forum and how useful it is to Tanzanian CSOs?

Lwabulala: ICISO has involved itself in EACSOF activities and plans by pushing up the establishment of EACSOF Tanzania chapter. EAC member member countries each have EACSOF country chapter from which some of their leaders have been accorded observer status in the EACSOF secretariat meetings. Tanzania had no representative from the Civil Society Sector to the secretariat. ICISO has participated in various meetings Organized by TANGO and some sponsored by the Foundation of Civil society to chart ways and means of establishing EACSOF Tanzania Chapter. ICISO participated fully in the drawing of the constitution from the beginning up to the end when a caretaker Secretariat was established and adapting the constitution. ICISO (represented by me) chaired one of those meetings). ICISO carried out a Survey through its members to know people conducting cross border trade to know their problems and experiences which eventually were shared in the above said meetings.

 

Q. In what ways has ICISO been involved in EACSOF plans and activities to-date?

Lwabulala: ICISO is planning to conduct an Advocacy Strategy to boost awareness to its members, Business Interest Groups who have very little information on the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols by disseminating friendly user language of rules and regulations so that they can be understood well to enable them take full advantages of the provisions- especially those on cross-border trade.

Apart from the Advocacy strategy, ICISO will follow up all protocols and strategies of the EAC integration, translate them into user friendly language and distribute them to our members and general public, we will as well disseminate the same through community Radios and other electronic channels.

Q. Can you explain how the ICISO Advocacy Strategy will support its members to participate in the East African integration process and which activities has your network implemented in spearheading EAC integration in Iringa region?

Lwabulala: ICISO through TCCIA Iringa Branch has identified three members conducting cross border trade and recommended them to TANGO and eventually they attended a 2 days’ workshop on matters related to cross border trade.

Q. What serious challenges has ICISO encountered in carrying out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration?

Lwabulala: ICISO has encountered a number of challenges in our efforts to carry out the advocacy strategy for EAC integration. One is lack of funds with which to pay for the services and activities we have planned to undertake. There are also the problems of unavailability of rules, regulation and protocols governing the EAC integration. Also, our members and the general public are not aware that they have a part to pay! They think that the whole issue of EAC integration concerns politicians and Government officers. The few traders who ventured to conduct Cross Border Trade have since despaired due to hardships they encountered on both Borders i.e on the Tanzania side and neighboring country. Paying high duties on small consignments(rules and regulations are not readily available lack of the much needed information. Constant charging requirements on goods exported to neighboring countries ie: (in the past they used to export rice but now they are compelled to sell without removing husks!

Q. What will you propose as the right way or approach in enabling your organization play its part in supporting members on EAC integration initiative?

Lwabulala: In order ICISO to pay its part in supporting our members on EAC integration initiative, it needs funds with which it will use to: reach its members in the region, collect information (rules and regulations of different protocols) translate them into friendly user language and disseminate them through print and electronic media, conduct workshops and seminars, websites as well as live radio broadcastings through community radio.

Q: In two paragraphs describe your experience in working with CSOs and networks in Tanzania

Lwabulala: I joined the CSOs sector in 1995 when I spearheaded the establishment of The Tanzania Diamond and Gemstones Polishers Association aiming at promoting the need to add value to Diamonds and gemstones instead of selling them as rough. I was later elected its first chairperson.

In 2000 I participated in the birth of ICISO as its public relations officer since then to date. We established districts networks in 6 districts which are still working (three of them are now in Njombe Region). In collaboration with Networks of Mbeya and Rukwa Regions we established the Southern Highlands NGO Network (SOHINGONET). In collaboration with Forum CC, I organized a one day workshop of CSOs from The Southern Highlands Zone in Iringa to collect CSOs inputs to the National strategy for Climate Change.

Together with nine others, I represented Tanzania CSOs as advocates/activist on Climate Change to the CoP 17 which was held in South Africa in Kwa Zulu Natal, I as well presented a paper on Indigenous knowledge in fighting Climate Change which was organized by UNESCO and was held in MAURITIUS. I have participated in several National CSOs forums conducted by different institutions like FCS, TANGO, TCDD, the government of Tanzania just to mention a few.

ICISO organized a public debate on “MKUKUTA” funded by the Foundation for Civil Society. 150 participants representing the CSOs and normal citizens from all over the region and few from Mbeya and Ruvuma regions. All members of regional secretariat (Government) were there to answer questions and comments on the implementation of different sectors in MKUKUTA. The issues raised were entered into the action plan which is being worked out by the CSOs and the government at regional and district levels. The citizens are demanding more debates.

Taxmen, police frustrate cross border business, traders complain *Majority say EAC is now of little benefit to them

When the East Africa Community (EAC) was revived on July 7, 2000, setting the regional integration milestones beginning with establishment of Customs Union, Common Market, Common Currency and lastly arrangements for a political federation, residents of the partner states, especially people engaging in cross boarder business, had high hopes of having their standard of living uplifted in one way or another.

However, in reality such a dream has vanished in the thin air as business environment in some borders has turned ‘hostile’ with tax or custom officials and police bearing the blame.

A survey conducted by the Guardian newspaper (with the financial support of the Foundation for Civil Society)) at Mutukula which borders Tanzania and Uganda and also at Kaisho, a centre located about 30 kilometres from another border location called Murongo, both in Kagera Region, has proved beyond reasonable doubt that individuals engaging in cross-border trade are subjected to stringent taxation measures and unnecessary harassment by officials on the Tanzania side.

The mistreatment, according to the business community, has prompted them to stop importing goods, especially non-food products from Uganda through Mutukula and Murongo borders.

Traders who volunteered to speak to The FCS correspondent revealed that cross border trade, especially which involves textile products, has substantially declined as majority of traders have now opted to buy their goods from Mwanza and Dar es Salaam Regions.

A petty trader who identified himself by the single name of Shafii, said that most textile traders had ceased to import their goods from Uganda, after some of their colleagues underwent stringent taxation procedures at Mutukula border in the previous days.

“I personally thought that EAC would simplify cross border business, but unfortunately, that is not the case,” he insisted. However, Shafii admitted that the regional bloc had significantly simplified the movements of its citizens.

A woman in Bukoba Municipality, who runs the baby cloth shop and who preferred anonymity, said she found it easier to buy her merchandise from either Dar es Salaam or Mwanza rather than Uganda due to taxation hassles.

This reporter witnessed the luggage of passengers who had either started their journey at Mutukula border and traveling to Bukoba or had crossed the border to Tanzania from Uganda, being thoroughly inspected by tax officials.

This reporter’s small bag was also searched by custom officials at Mutukula border as he was returning from Uganda side where he had briefly crossed, obviously in search for commodities they thought were purchased on the Uganda side of the border.

Donatus Martin, a trader at Kaisho centre in Kyerwa District near Murongo, at the border between Tanzania and Uganda, blamed Tanzanian tax officials for being too harsh on them as opposed to their colleagues in Uganda (Ugandan tax officials).

“Ugandan tax officials are so considerate to us whenever we buy goods there, but trouble now starts brewing when you meet the Tanzanian tax officials. Personally, I am no longer importing commodities from Uganda,” he said.

He added:” Once you meet Tanzanian tax officials at the border they would start counting one item after the other before they slap you with unbearable tax estimates.”

According to Martin, a businessman may find himself paying almost 80 per cent of the total value of the commodities he purchases in Kampala as tax at Murongo border.

He said it might  take him four days to travel to Mwanza and bring back merchandise to his shops at Kaisho, but business  would still be more profitable than importing it from Uganda through Mutukula or Murongo borders, a trip that takes  only a single day.

Majaliwa Emmanuel a young businessman at Kaisho centre, branded Murongo border as an ‘unfriendly gate’ for their business. He went further to describe the EAC as a ‘failed project’ simply because it does not benefit ordinary people engaging in petty business.

“When we speak of EAC as a project, our leaders should come up with a way to see how we, the petty traders, would benefit from the bloc. It does not sound good for tax officials and police at the barriers to harass us whenever we cross the border while carrying commodities bought from Uganda,” he insisted.

He added :”We  hear everydaythat EAC has institutions  like Customs Union and Common Market but for us, the common people, we don’t see their benefits because the taxes are high whenever we import goods from neighboring Uganda”.

Majaliwa admitted that customs officials were only flexible  if one bought items in Uganda for personal use at home such as flour or cooking oil but not for anything they suspected was  meant for sale.

Edward Bibangama echoed similar sentiments, saying estimates for tax on goods imported from the neighbouring Uganda was high, a factor that discourages them from travelling to Kampala or Mbarara.

Bibangama said sometimes, police officers stationed at road barriers would ask them (the businessmen) to offload their commodities from vehicles for tax verification.

“Always we pay tax at the borders but police stationed at barriers would start harassing us as if customs officials have not done their job. This is embarrassing,” he said. Another petty trader, Deus Daudi expressed similar sentiments.

Aristide Fulgence expressed his disappointment with customs officials. “One day I was forced to surrender my commodities worth TSh. 50,000 to customs officials for no apparent reason. For a petty trader like me, that was a huge blow,” he said. 

Mviwata reduces land disputes in Songea

In a country where almost 80% of her population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, knowledge on policy and laws governing land use has to be given paramount attention as well as priority in national plans.

Although the Government has the number one responsibility to ensure that its citizens are aware of land issues and peaceful land dealings take place, other development stakeholders, including the civil society organizations, have a role to play. An active nonprofit organization can complement government efforts in reducing land squabbles by disseminating knowledge and awareness on policy and laws which are related to land tenure.

In Ruvuma region, Muungano wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA) through grants availed by  the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS), has shown a green light to  the possibility of reducing land disputes among both families  and communities. The MVIWATA project—known as Stop Land Grabbing-Defend for Your Rights-- has been implemented in 13 villages from four wards of Songea Rural District since October 2016.

Endless land disputes, which in most cases ended disastrously, with heavy casualties suffered by some of those involved and propelled by lack of knowledge on land matters,  especially laws governing land ownership  and tenure, were factors which promoted the organization to seek  for grants to undertake the project in Mpitimbi, Magaguta, Muhulutwe and MpendaNgindo wards.

Graciana Ntango, one of the active project volunteers in Mpandangindo Village, had sufficient evidence to prove that the project--just in its third month-- was proving to be a resounding success. She was one of the 34 Trainers of Trainers (ToTs) who had been oriented on various land issues, including the Village Land Act No. 4 and 5 of 1999 as well as the rights of individuals and villages in relation to land tenure.

The role of trained ToTs, according to Denis Mpangazi, the organization’s communication manager, was three-fold: To engage villages in understanding the Land Act, provide a linkage between land tribunals and the local government authority in Songea Rural District and inform MVIWATA of the on-going cases of land dealings in their villages.

Graciana explained how the miracle occurred after only two months of intense work in the villages. “In one family, the father died leaving behind five children and a widow. Unfortunately, the man had other children out of wedlock, who were living in another village.  Children from the second woman demanded the right to acquire land in the village where their father originated, though they already possessed some plots in the village where their mother met their father some 25 years back. Efforts by the village land tribunal and later on the ward land tribunal could not salvage the situation”, narrated the paralegal.

“It seems most of the members in the land tribunals at village and ward levels had never come across the Village Land Act and other by-laws, this being one major reason why they could not sort out things for this family.”

Graciana said after MVIWATA had conducted training to 34 ToTs in early November 2016, she saw the missing link and factors behind existing land disputes in many villages of Songea Rural District.

“After the ToT training, we were charged with the responsibility to conduct hamlet and village seminars for members of the community, and later on, meet village land tribunals to enlighten them on the laws governing land matters,” she explained.

It was out of these continued meetings and tribunal sessions that the quarreling family members calmed down and decided to withdraw the case from the Village Executive Officer (VEO) and took it back to the land tribunal.

“Both the tribunal and family members agreed that children from the second family had the right to occupy some plots in the village where their late father had acquired as long as they also allowed their siblings to access land in their own village, something which was accepted by all family members. The land disputes between these family members are now history.”

Graciana also cited the case where two villages which were almost close to taking  arms against land grabbing involving another village, a case which deemed to make ward tribunals jobless. “My job is to mediate and create awareness to the feuding parties on matters related with land laws, by-laws and the right to land occupancy”, explained the jovial paralegal.

There was another vivid scenario of how the project had contributed to reduced land disputes between villagers and investors are the case of Mpokea Village.  The village government leaders had quietly sold100 hectares of land to a developer in the name of investment. The investor agreed in turn to build a school and dig three shallow wells for the village. Some 12 months later, the promise was never fulfilled, thus raising alarm among the villagers who now wanted to have their land back. The whole village government resigned and was taken to task.

Graciana faced both the village leaders and the investor, reminding them on both the rights of villagers and the investor in the land dealings in accordance with the Land Act. After only three weeks of Graciana’s intervention, the investor agreed to return half the hectares to the village, a proposal which was gladly accepted by the villagers. The investor signed a document committing himself to construct a school as well as digging some shallow wells within 24 months.

Laika is MVIWATA’s Filed Officer who has facilitated several capacities building sessions for legal volunteers. She had witnessed some of the land disputes being amicably resolved. “There is a lot of awareness these days. This is a wakeup call for violators who were used to infringing on land occupation rights before the project came into existence in October 2016. At that time, VEOs used to record an average of 10 to 20 cases of land disputes in a month. These days, they hardly have a case or two to deal with.”

MVIWATA produced and distributed some 200 copies of Land Law documents which were distributed to all volunteers and leaders. This was the first time literature on land issues was seen within the communities.

The value for land has soured more than the time when peasants could sell a 70 by 70 metres plot for a meager Tsh. 250,000. After the awareness campaign had taken place, the villagers realized that land was a precious property. Some were now selling similar plots at between Tsh.700,000 and Tshs1,000,000. With this market price, villagers can now invest in other economic ventures, thus boost their means of livelihood through land ownership in far better terms than was previously the case.

CHAVITA: Bringing closer health services to people with hearing disabilities

People with hearing disabilities are experiencing a new way of life after some healthcare providers have attended sign language training. The short course was conducted by the Tanzania Deaf Association (CHAVITA), Tabora Branch.

CHAVITA branch chairman Ramadhan Rajab told the FCS correspondent that the sign language project for health care providers marked a big milestone for people with hearing disabilities in  accessing health services. The project has so far covered some 53 health facilities in Tabora Region. It was funded by the Foundation for Civil Society.

“The situation now is better. People with hearing disabilities are also happy. It was previously difficult for them to communicate with health workers,” Rajab said.

Rajab said they had concentrated on providing sign language training to health workers at both the Regional Government Hospital and Milambo Military Hospital. “We did this because these two facilities are pillars of healthcare in Tabora Region,” he says.

Dr. Joel Hoza of Kitete Regional Hospital said the training had helped quite a lot because they lacked the required knowledge on how to properly handle the deaf patients.

"One such difficulty was how to inquire the health history and symptoms from a deaf person in relation to the illness and then decide on the required treatment. The training has helped show us the way to communicate with the deaf," said Dr. Hoza. He added:

"Here in Tabora, we have Kazima Secondary School, which has some deaf students. These come to our hospital for treatment. One day, after I had attended the sign language training, three female students came here.  I told them to use sign language. They were quite excited. They requested us to place a person a teach unit who could communicate through sign language," says Dr. Hoza

Referring to the difficulty of learning sign language, Margret Kanola, a health worker at Kitete Hospital, says it was rather challenging to grasp it because there was hardly sufficient time to practice it on daily basis.

"Learning sign language at adult age is even more challenging. We are trying to cope and are somehow improving on each coming day," she says.

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