A men’s clothing store in Nairobi has an interesting new product for sale: chastity belts with an iron padlock for $20 each.
The product was designed to help men to protect themselves from being sexually harassed by their wives, after a woman was charged in court for chopping off her husband’s penis because of a quarrel over money.
Maendeleo ya Wanaume, a men’s lobby group, wants women who chop off man’s genitals to be sentenced to life imprisonment or to the death penalty.
Aspiring politician Asha Salum is busy trying to convince people in her area of Dar Es Salaam to support her candidacy for a council position at elections later this year, one of a growing number of women seeking political office in Tanzania.
The softly-spoken politician, who at the age of 31 is the youngest candidate for this post in Tegeta in Kawe constituency in 20 years, is one of a new generation of women being groomed to muscle into the male-dominated political world.
The East African nation of about 50 million people has had few women in top leadership positions since adopting a multi-party system in 1992 but female campaigners are hoping to change this at the nation’s fifth general election on Oct. 25.
Salum is one of 2 600 aspiring female politicians to receive training which started this week from a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Tanzania on how to improve their campaigning skills and avoid the sexual pitfalls often faced by Tanzanian women in any bid to advance a career.
“Some women are easily tempted to offer sexual corruption to officials so their names are considered for nomination,” Salum told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adorned in the traditional green and yellow of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
“How many men you will need to sleep with to win a parliamentary or councillorship seat? I think now is the time to say enough is enough to ‘sextortion'”.
The training, organised by the Tanzania Women Cross Party (TWCP), aims to equip female candidates vying in October for presidential, parliamentary and council positions with political skills and techniques.
According to training organisers, the candidates will receive training about topical political issues surrounding the elections, the role of parliament and local councils, and relevant election law rules and regulations.
Presidential hopes Four female candidates have expressed interest in running for president on the CCM ticket, including the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Asha-Rose Migiro.
This is the first time in Tanzania that women have come forward seeking nomination for the presidential job.
“By implementing the party’s manifesto I will build an independent and modern economy to benefit all Tanzanians,” said Migiro on collecting her nomination form this week.
Migiro, a lawyer by profession, worked at the United Nations under Ban Ki-moon from 2007 to 2012 and has become the 12th Tanzania cabinet minister to express interest in succeeding President Jakaya Kikwete who is due to retire later this year.
Tanzania has tried to ensure substantial political representation of women with a quota system defining 30 percent of the 357 seats in Parliament as “special seats” reserved for women. Political parties that gain at least 5 percent of the vote in the general election nominate these women.
But women’s rights campaigners are concerned most of the women in Parliament are in quota seats and not elected directly from constituencies which limits their support for the top jobs.
Campaigners are concerned that women lack the skills, education and experience to carve out a successful career in politics and many lack the financial security to be able to focus on politics rather than the basic needs of their families.
A recent Afrobarometer survey also found that violence in African politics may discourage female participation.
“There’s no democracy in the political parties. Female candidates are often ignored in the nomination process and that’s why we need to train them to reverse that unfair trend,” Ave Maria Semakafu, the chairwoman of TWCP told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Although the number of female legislators rose to 35 percent at the 2010 election from 21.5 percent in 2000, rights groups says it not enough as only 17 were elected from constituencies.
Willibrod Slaa from the opposition Chadema party and vice-chair of Tanzania Centre for Democracy, said action was needed.
“No serious party can any longer ignore that women constitute 51 percent of this country and we simply need to be much better at including them in politics,” he told the centre’s annual conference earlier this year.
Despite the challenges, women’s participation in politics has improved in most African countries in the past two decades.
Malawi recently swore in its first female president, Joyce Banda, and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has occupied her country’s highest office since 2006.
Rwanda leads the world in the share of female legislators at 63.8 per cent of the seats, according to United Nations data.
Senegal, the Seychelles and South Africa have more than 40 percent, and Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda are not far behind with women in about 35 percent of parliamentary seats.
Salum said she was confident the training would boost her chances to win a seat in October on her own merits.
“I have what it takes to serve my people and solve their problems as existing leaders have failed to do so,” she said.
The events unfolded like a John le Carré novel: just minutes before South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma delivered his opening address on Sunday to the African Union summit in the glitzy Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the Pretoria High Court ordered that the government should ensure that Bashir could not leave the country.
But incredibly, the government managed to “lose” the Sudanese president, insisting for hours after he took off at 11.46am on Monday that it did not know whether he had left or not, claiming that he may have gone shopping.
Bashir was indicted in 2009 by the ICC for alleged genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Allowing him to escape was a kick in the face of the 400 000 people who have died in the ongoing conflict – and the 2.5 million who have been displaced.
Over the past few years pressure from African leaders criticising the ICC has grown, with many claiming its cases target African leaders only. In December Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, said the ICC was a “tool to target” Africa. Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame has accused the court of “selective” justice.
This is in some sense true: since its establishment in 2002, the ICC has heard 22 cases and indicted 32 individuals. All of them are African.
South Africa, though a signatory to the Rome Statute through which the court was established, has lately joined this chorus, with the governing ANC saying on Saturday: “The ICC is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended – being a court of last resort for the prosecution of crimes against humanity.”
While this stance may have endeared the country to the rest of the African Union – where it seeks to be a significant player – it reveals a troubling contradiction: signatory to the Statute on the one hand, while flirting with those who seek to defy its precepts on the other.
But this isn’t the first time the country has displayed its ambivalence towards the ICC: in 2010 South Africa invited Bashir to the now scandal-mired World Cup, attracting plaudits from some on the continent and gaining street cred for shaking its fist at the west.
Many South Africans aren’t surprised by the weekend’s events. Over the past seven years the country has sided with the dodgiest leaders in the world in the name of “the national interest”.
The authorities have refused the Dalai Lama a visa to enter South Africa at the invitation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel laureates at least three times at the behest of China, with whom we have signed a 10-year agreement pledging “political mutual trust and strategic co-ordination”, while President Zuma is having a full-on bromance with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, remaining silent about the Kremin’s alleged assassination of opposition politicians.
Robert Mugabe, accused of the murder of thousands of his own citizens in the 1980s and the torture of many more in the 2000s, was wined and dined on a state visit here a few months ago. And Bashir? South Africa has defended him since the ICC issued its first warrant for his arrest in 2009, under the guise of building ties with the African Union.
In effect, the South African government has broken its own laws and acted in defiance of a court order. A government lawyer, William Mokhari, told the court that Bashir’s departure will be fully investigated. But that is academic. The government did nothing to arrest him.
Politically, this much we know: by protecting Bashir and letting him escape, our country has openly taken sides with the Africa’s tyrants, and not their victims.
But every optimist needs to cross over to the dark side now and again. Every optimist needs to stop and realise that, “Whoa! The world is really, really messed up!” Every optimist needs to turn off the Kardashians and get a dose of reality.
On a long-distance bus ride from Johannesburg to Bulawayo I eavesdropped on a conversation between two women sitting behind me. Both of them were well-dressed black women. They were gossiping about some of the other passengers, talking about their families and work.
One of them was a domestic worker. She spoke fondly about the little white babies who called her Mama and her white “Mrs” who loved pap. And how the little boy who adored her interrogated her about who she was: “Are you my aunt? No, you can’t be my aunt because you’re black!”
I chuckled inwardly.
And then reality struck: this forty-something-year-old woman sitting behind me was a domestic worker. She probably didn’t finish high school. She never went to university or had the opportunity to choose a career. She spends most of her days with little ones who call her “Mama” but aren’t her children. Hers are somewhere in Zimbabwe, being raised by a grandmother or aunt.
She’ll endure hours at the border, as they search she’ll pray that they don’t look too deeply for the stuff she didn’t declare. Back at home the children will be waiting. Her oldest girl will have supper ready for the family, and her little boy will be in for a scolding because he got into a fight at school. She’ll check their reports, help them say their evening prayers, take a quick bath and collapse into bed. Exhausted. At the end of the weekend she’ll hug them goodbye and say hello to her other children.
No child dreams of being a domestic worker when they grow up. Or a car guard. Or a waiter at Spur. Little girls dream of being doctors and pilots and social workers. Little boys want to be lawyers and musicians and engineers. Most parents can’t afford to take their children to ‘O’ Level and if they can, they’re educated children will enter a market where their education is worth nothing and they’re forced to do what’s available.
They may never pursue a diploma or degree or even technical training. The pilot will be a car guard; the engineer a cleaner; and the doctor a domestic worker. Their dreams will be extinguished by the harsh reality of a poor education system and economic inequality.
I’m still an optimist.
Because there is dignity in all work. The idea of ‘menial’ jobs is false because all work is worthy of respect. My grandmother and that woman on the bus, the people you call your ‘sisi’ or ‘Mama’- they do important work. And the fact that their careers were constrained by their circumstances doesn’t change the fact that their work matters.
I still have hope.
Because there is a man in Soshanguve who was born into poverty. So poor that he couldn’t stay in school and became a gardener instead. That same man worked at his job and raised enough money to finish school, study towards a Bachelor of Arts, his Masters and finally his PhD. Read Fannie Sebolela’s story.
A 95-year-old woman is helping a last ditch effort to preserve an ancient African language before it goes extinct.
Hanna Koper and her two sisters are thought to be the last remaining speakers of the San language N|uu, rated as critically endangered by Unesco . The San, also known as “bushmen”, were the first hunter-gatherers in southern Africa.
N|uu, which has 112 distinct sounds, was passed on orally down the generations but never written down. Now Koper and her siblings have worked with linguists to design alphabet charts with consonants, vowels and 45 different “clicks” that are typical of San languages, as well as rules of spelling and grammar.
N|uu and related languages were spoken in most parts of southern Africa, he added, but were wiped out by white settlers, sometimes with the support of locals. “Very often they kept the young girls, but they killed all the men. Genocide is the major reason for these languages in southern Africa to be extinct now, and then forced assimilation. Farmers were taking their land so there was no subsistence for them any more.”
Brezinger has overseen the teaching of N|uu at a local school, where pupils learn basics such as greetings, body parts, animal names and short sentences. One teenager girl in particular is showing huge promise in the language but “at one stage there will be no fluent speaker any more”, he said.
That does not mean N|uu will necessarily be doomed to the archives, however. “With these languages, you never know,” said Brezinger. “Hawaiian was extinct basically, and then there was a movement 35 years ago and you have 2 000 mother tongue speakers of Hawaiian.
“This is why it’s very important now for us to record as much as possible with the speakers so we have material, spoken language on video tape and so on.”
N|uu has one of the biggest speech sound inventories in the world, he added, including more than 45 click phonemes, 30 non-click consonants and 37 vowels. “Language is the most important cultural asset, so if you lose your langage, you lose your culture. In Canada there is a clear link between those indigenous people who lose their language and suicide rates. In this globalised world, local identity is essential,” Brezinger.
Koper, who lives near Upington in Northern Cape province, told the Sunday Times newspaper that when she was a girl in the days of white minority rule, she and her siblings were told their language was ugly. “We were told not to make noise, and the baas [a Dutch word for supervisor] would shout at us if we spoke the language because they believed we were gossiping,” she was quoted as saying.
“This is my language. This is my bread. This is my milk. I didn’t learn it, but I ate it and this is how it is my language.”
Koper’s sister Katrina Esau, 82, who has received an award from President Jacob Zuma for her work to preserve San language and culture , added: “Other people have their own languages. Why must my language be allowed to die? It must go on. As long as there are people, the language must go on.”