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Why wills matter

Tanzania is composed of more than 120 ethnic tribes, including the Maasai. Customary law is the traditional rules by which ethnic tribes govern their culture. Each tribe has its own traditional cultural way of life and Tanzania statutory law recognizes these customary rules as laws in some cases.

Most customary norms deny women the right to own property. As a result, when a husband dies without a document that declares who will be given the property, vulnerable members of his family, especially women and female children, are denied their right to own part of their deceased husband’s property.

These customary norms go against the Tanzanian Constitution and other statutory laws that promote and protect women rights. This is why we work with women to train them on the importance of having a will, and understanding what property their husband owns. We also provide legal aid support to help families write wills.

Both statutory and customary law view wills as the final say in how someone’s property should be distributed after they die, and no one can argue against what the will says. Writing a will is essential to protect one’s family, however many perceive writing a will as something one should only do when very ill or dying. As a result, many don't write wills, or leave it until it is too late. Women and widows sadly often suffer as a result and can be denied access to inheritance - including their own homes. That’s why we are working in communities to get people to understand the importance of wills, why to write one now and the steps to take to safeguard documents and property rights in the event of the death of your husband. Preparedness is key.

To learn more about wills, or organise a training in your community contact us today.

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