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UNFPA Moves to Tame Violence Against Women

With a theme of 'Don't kick her, kick the ball', the government and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has launched a campaign against domestic violence done to women.

"We use football to highlight the important message of 'Don't kick her! Kick the ball", Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, Ms Margaret Sitta, said during the campaign launch.

The campaign that will be conducted countrywide will use a football to highlight the important message of sticking to non-violent relationship. The UNFPA will conduct the campaign in partnership with House of Peace, Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children and other private organizations.

By creating a conducive climate to enable these organizations fight brutality against women, the government has reflected its commitment to eliminate gender-based violence GBV) in Tanzania by, in addition, the Sexual Offence Special Provision Act.

The Act legislates punishment for the culprit of the offence. In 2007 the Tanzania Police Female Network (TPFNet) was also created to add force to this cause. Through the TPFNet, gender desks were created in 6 regions of Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Coast Region to address GBV cases present at the police stations.

According to a study conducted by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005, it was revealed that 41 per cent of women in Dar es Salaam and 56 per cent in Mbeya, had experienced physical and sexual violence at the hand of their partner.

"This is unacceptable!.. Why should men hit their partners?" Sitta said.

In her opinion, financial strength will give women protection against violence. "Many women suffer various forms of cruelty because they are poor." Economic empowerment is therefore a safeguard for women against violence.

A study done in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya recently on women aged between 15 and 49 revealed that 7 per cent of the Dar women were beaten during their first pregnancy and 38 per cent of them were beaten on their abdomen.

Of the Mbeya group, 12 per cent of those who were pregnant were beaten and 23 per cent were kicked in the stomach. The study also shows that 65 per cent of pregnant women in Dar es Salaam and 57 per cent of similar women in Mbeya were victims of the same form of violence committed by their partners they had previous to the pregnancy. Refuge for women from violence is little.

The study found out that teachers, who are supposed to provide for women some protection against violence, subjected 19 per cent of women in Dare s Salaam and 16 per cent of women in Mbeya to physical violence during school time. The minister said the ministry has a crucial role in coordinating all the actors to respond and to prevent all forms of gender based violence.

"As a member of United Nations, Tanzania has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and is highly committed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Millennium Development Goals (Beijing Conference of 1995)," she said.

The minister urged the public to fight violence against women, saying Tanzania is a signatory to the African Protocol on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women and the Maputo Protocol of 2005.

"All ministries have gender focal points, and our ministry has initiated efforts to train them on ways to mainstream gender in the ministries' work plans and budgets," she said.

Ms Sitta explained that all the efforts were to ensure better sectoral coordination. They, however would also ensure that public resources were shared more equally among men and women of Tanzania. The private sector got accolade from the minister for their initiatives in strengthening protection systems for survivors and provide access to justice.

"I would like to thank the House of Peace for supporting violence victims. It provides shelter, legal and health care counselling, clothing and food to those women and children who have been so badly abused that they cannot return to their home since many of the women and children still fear for their lives," she stated.

A woman, Ms Aisha Idd, who now lives at House of Peace said, she was beaten and chased away by her husband. And therefore she decided to look for life support from organizations.

"We built the house, but he began to mistreat me and last year he kicked me out of the house when I was pregnant," she explained.

For some time, she lived on the street and then with a neighbour who sympathised with her. Then House of Peace gave her refuge. The UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Julitta Onabanjo, congratulated the two testimonies for their courage to tell their stories and said that in Dar es Salaam almost a half of women who were in love had experienced some physical and sexual violence.

"Inequality and injustice are still part of everyday life for women particularly in the rural areas and this must stop," she said.

In 2008 President Kikwete launched a 'Say NO to Violence against Women' campaign led by UNIFEM. By doing so, he became the second African Head of State after President Wade of Senegal to sign on a UNIFEM led campaign.

Dr Onabanjo reminded that, the president promised that his government was ready to work together with Development Partners to review Laws and take all necessary measures to make the situation a reality to prevent and eliminate violence against women.

"We commend him for this important step and we encourage the minister (Ms Sitta) and her team to move this initiative forward including with the endorsement of the national committee on GBV," she said.

However, there were still gaps in the legal environment. Domestic violence is only minimally addressed in the law of Marriage Act, yet most often the perpetrators are family members, husbands, uncles and sometimes brothers and fathers.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador, Mr Alfonso Lenhardt, promised to pay a six-month rent for House of Peace rent. The house currently keeps 35 adult women. Those women had been abandoned by the family members at Mwananyamala Hospital and Muhimbili National Hospital. The Ambassador also said that the USA was in the process to start a programme to support financially women abandoned by their partners so that they can lead an independent life.

"The country will start the programme in Dar es Salaam soon to enable women financially to support their life," Mr Lenhardt said.

It was, however, reported that women who had experienced physical or sexual partner violence were more likely to have health problems. Other organizations which have participated in the campaign 'Don't kick her, Kick the ball' include United Nations Tanzania, M2 advertising, Women's Corona Society, Shoppers Supermarket, Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children, Protea Hotels and Rayz Designs Limited.

Swaum Mustapher - http://allafrica.com/