“In my community women are supposed to say ‘yes’ to everything. How can we say ‘no’ without putting ourselves in danger?” asks Nemburis, a young woman who attended a Inherit Your Rights women’s rights workshop last Wednesday. This young woman's question gets to the heart of Inherit Your Rights’ mission to educate and empower women and girls by teaching them about their legal and basic human rights. “Today I learned that I have the human right to life,” said Bethshiba, a training participant, “no one can harm me or interfere with my right to live.”
Nemburis, Bethshiba, and the 10 other Maasai girls and women who attended this training were rescued by IYR’s partner, Faces 4 Hope, a non-governmental organization that prevents young Maasai girls from becoming child brides. These 12 workshop attendees are just some of the 230 women and girls who have been rescued by Faces 4 Hope and represent one of our community’s most vulnerable groups. This is the third workshop IYR has done with students from Faces 4 Hope and it is part of a growing partnership between the two organizations.
For many girls and women in Tanzania, long-standing cultural norms govern their day-to-day lives while basic human rights, including freedom from physical and sexual abuse provided by the Constitution of Tanzania, are not widely understood. “Tradition and custom can be really good,” said Baraka Joel, IYR’s Community Training Lawyer, “but sometimes it is really bad." IYR’s programs, including educational trainings focused on women’s and children’s rights, paralegal “barefoot lawyer” trainings, and direct legal assistance for women and girls, counter these norms by helping vulnerable populations advocate for their rights.
These programs are a critical step towards justice for women in Tanzania. Over half of these women’s rights workshop participants reported that they know someone who was raped, while by some estimates nearly 20% of Tanzanian women have themselves been raped. At the workshop, students were introduced to the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Tanzania and coached on how to identify and respond to assault, including how to say “no”. IYR’s trained lawyers and social worker supported the women in developing their own safety action plans and worked with Faces 4 Hope program staff to developing strategies for supporting the students when they feel unsafe.
Through workshops like these, IYR and our partner Faces 4 Hope are enabling women and girls to protect themselves and promote equality and justice in their communities. “We can help these women know their rights” said Leah Brooks, the Faces 4 Hope site director, “and they will be the change for their children.”
*names and photos used with permission