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Strengthening women’s rights in Tanzania: Rebeca Gyumi

At the age of 13, Rebeca Gyumi already knew that she wanted to help people and which path she needed to take to do this. She decided to study law to strengthen the rights of women in her country. This country is called Tanzania and it is located in eastern Africa.
Up to 2016, with their parents‘ consent, girls as young as 14 could be married off. Through Rebeca’s efforts, the law was changed. She challenged the Marriage Act of 1971 in Tanzania’s high court and won. Since then, marriage for girls in Tanzania is only legally permitted from the age of 18.

March 8th: International Women’s Day

This year, on International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate Rebeca’s great achievement and also show that this wasn’t an easy path for her. In many ways it was a struggle, even against her fellow country people, because not everyone supported her goal. Many in Tanzania felt that their traditions, culture and religion were being threatened. In 2019, the opposing side even went to court again to appeal the decision taken in 2016, leading to another tense situation. But the jurisprudence of 2016 was reaffirmed.

Sustainably helping girls and women in Tanzania: The Msichana Initiative

Rebeca is the founder of the Msichana Initiative, an organization that advocates for girls and women. Together with her team, she continues to fight for women’s rights every day.
Although forbidden since 2016, the consequences of child marriage are still present on the one hand. On the other hand, just because it is against the law doesn’t mean that it is not still practiced.
So what does it really mean when a girl is married off at a very young age? It’s difficult for us to imagine in faraway Germany. When girls marry at 14, not only are they robbed of their childhood, in marriage they also suffer violence, rape and loss of self-determination. Their school education is taken from them and sexual education just doesn’t happen.
Families receive cattle for giving away their daughter, but the further course of life for these girls is absolutely predetermined, with no way out. It’s scary when society sees girls only as a mean to bear children. As a result of their own lack of education, they in turn cannot offer their own daughters any future prospects other than marriage. A vicious circle. Yet they could do so much more. Each person is an asset for a community and deserves to be allowed to fully realize their own potential.
The Msichana Initiative sees the following three areas as particularly relevant to breaking the vicious circle.

Inspiring girls to become activists for their rights

Girls and women should be inspired to stand up and speak out for their rights themselves. Msichana aims to provide the self-confidence required so that wishes and needs can clearly be expressed and demanded. Changing the mindsets of girls and women here is essential. It is important for them to see that as women they do not have to limit themselves to being a wife and mother. This change in perspective alone goes a long way. At a Global Ties U.S. speech, Rebeca makes it clear what activism means to her. Her message to young people is that no one is too small to initiate change. She firmly believes that everyone has the skills to make a difference.

Educating girls about SRHR (sexual and reproductive health rights)

Sexual empowerment is another critical theme. Msichina helps girls to learn to relate to their own sexuality by educating them about sexual health, contraception, and their periods. Learning that their own bodies are right and good are part of this topic. In this case, Msichana wants to show that there is nothing impure about the female body, female sexuality and periods. A positive self-image helps girls accept and love themselves as they are. This, in turn, makes them stronger and more confident.

Supporting girls‘ economic empowerment

A self-determined life is only possible if women are economically independent and can provide for themselves financially. For this reason, the initiative provides resources and support.

Jambo Bukoba supports girls and works with Rebeca Gyumi

At Jambo Bukoba we also strengthen the self-confidence and self-acceptance of girls. For this reason, we are very happy to be working with Rebeca Gyumi. Rebeca is one of our board members and she has provided us with the structure for a workshop that educates girls about their periods.
As part of Stefanie Altgeld’s master’s thesis at the Sport University Cologne, we expanded this workshop to include an athletic component, which is relevant to the Jambo Bukoba concept and the work we do. You can read more about it here.
If you would like to help girls in Tanzania to have a self-sustaining life, please have a look at our current projects. We welcome your donation.
Sources
https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/tansania-die-rebellion-der-kinderbraeute-und-teenie-muetter-a-6cbd6099-53f7-4bc2-8294-12c34f32e4bb
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/meet-the-young-woman-who-just-helped-end-child-marriage-in-tanzania/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYAQwOsy8qU
https://www.jambobukoba.com/girls-workshop/
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/RebecaGyumi.aspx
https://msichana.or.tz/
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