“My husband was not a nice man with me. He abused and beat me for many years. I thought it was normal. And besides, women don’t own anything here, so what could I do? Where could I go? What about my children? One night he came home drunk, and cut my breasts.”
Julia went to the elders in Morogoro, the village in Tanzania where she lives, for help. As is often the case, they counseled her to return to her husband and reconcile - that leaving would bring shame to her and her family.
Despite the passage of laws that recognize women’s rights, there remain numerous barriers to gender equality in Tanzania. Established gender roles and harmful practices leave women with no property, no decision-making authority or income, and little knowledge of their basic human rights. Violence against women is rampant in some areas.
One night after being severely beaten, Julia left and did not return. She was found bleeding on the side of the road by neighbours Paul and his wife.
“When we found Julia that night, she had been badly beaten,” said Paul. “My wife asked her who beat her, and she said it was her husband. This did not surprise us! Unfortunately violence against women happens too often here.”
Paul and his wife took Julia into their home, and asked Oxfam partner the Morogoro Paralegal Centre (MPLC) for help. Thanks in part to Engendering Change – a five-year women’s rights focused program co-funded by the Government of Canada - the MPLC has been able to establish a system of paralegals in rural areas that provide legal aid and rights awareness workshops to women and children in the rural areas outside Morogoro.
They are current preparing Julia’s case. Although she sees of a lot of cases like Julia’s, MPLC paralegal Theodora Mlelwa said things are slowly beginning to change in the region, because of the work of MPLC and other similar organizations.
“The provision of legal aid and rights awareness outreach is very important because many women don’t have the knowledge or the resources to put a stop to human rights abuse,” she said. “Because of the support of Oxfam, we are able to help more and more women and work to change attitudes in their communities.”
Julia added: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope I can have a place to stay in my house, with my children, and that I can live in peace away from my husband. Because of MPLC, I know now that I deserve that. That I have rights, because I am a human being, too”.
The Morogoro Paralegal Centre is a partner in Oxfam Canada's Engendering Change Project was a five-year Oxfam program co-funded with the Government of Canada to build the capacity of local partner organizations to advance women's rights.