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September 16, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

The Citizen: Rights activists call on end to exploitation of widows

By Bernard Lugongo
The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Rights activists have been alarmed over widespread abuse of widowed women as a result of weak laws put in place to protect the group.Through their task force, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), they noted that for the past seven months they handled over 350 cases of women who sought legal aid after being tortured in just three regions.  

Information collected from those regions showed that 145 women experienced different kinds of abuse in Mara Region, 174 in Songea and about 50 in Shinyanga Region. 

The abusive acts included being dispossessed of their wealth after their husbands died, giving widows little inheritance and sodomy.  

The task force is coordinated by the Women Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) and consists other members from the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (Tawla) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF).

Others are the Tanzania Women and Children Welfare Centre (TWCWC), Centre for Widow and Children Assistance (CWCA) and Paralegal Aid Centre Shinyanga (Paceshi). Speaking at a news conference yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the executive director of WLAC, Ms Theodesia Muhulo, called for the amendment of inheritance laws because the existing ones had failed to address the problems.

“Statistics on abuse of widows could be higher since we only record cases of women who come for legal assistance in a few regions,” she said.The executive director of Tawla, Ms Tike Mwambipi, also said they have been recording increasing cases of harassed widows day by day.“The challenge is still on bad traditions that deny rights to the widows,” she said.

For her part, Ms Utti Mwang’amba, the executive director of CWCA, said they would ensure that they take legal measures against people who grab wealth from widows.“We also realised that greed by wealthy people in the community is one of the major factors for dispossession of wealth from widows,” she noted.CEDAW was established in 1982, and is composed of 23 experts on women’s issues from around the world.

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