Over the past few decades, there have been a growing number of organizations and individuals advocating for gender equality and empowering young girls in Tanzania. While the term itself (feminism) is still new and mostly confused by many Tanzanians especially men, the message of these organizations is plain clear —to make a society a better place for a girl child. I think it’s a good thing to have in a civilized society like Tanzania.

All my life I grew up around women —mothers, aunties, bibi, sisters and other female relatives. I saw, and I’m still witnessing how women struggle at achieving almost everything in a society that considers them less than.

So, if you ask me of whether I am a feminist or a patriarchy, I will tell you that there’s more of my mother left in me than there’s of my father’s. But that is not all, there’s more of a society in me too —a society taught me how to be a man, taught me not to be weak like women, not to cry like women. Society taught me that a man is the one who is supposed to have more achievements than a woman. So, you can imagine where I’m at within this whole thing.

Tanzania is a deeply patriarchal society where the idea of masculinity applies at every angle. And this is the root cause of all problems women face —being economically disadvantaged, sexual abuses, home violence and forms of violence subjected to women.

The outcomes

Despite efforts on empowering women in Tanzania, gender equality seems to be at a disappointing level.

While it’s important to liberate women from the chains of male dominance by investing on empowering young girls and giving them awareness to understand their rights, efforts are also needed on preparing young boys to receive and accept an empowered woman?

We have put a lot of time educating young girls to grow as confident and daring as possible. But we forget that if we don’t invest some efforts in changing how young boys should perceive their sisters, all of the efforts empowering young girls will be to no avail.

Chimamanda Adchie, a world renowned feminist and author has once said, “If you don’t change men, nothing changes”

In Tanzania, there’s a considerably large number of men who would rather marry a woman who is less educated or with low economic status than them —just to feed their man’s ego, to feel like they are in control. An independent woman is a threat to a man’s fragile confidence —because that’s not most men have been prepared to believe in a woman.

The beliefs of feminism or patriarchy are like religion —if you grew up being told that Jesus is God, then that’s it. That is what you’ll believe. The same happens to a young boy who grows up being told that a man doesn’t cry, a man is insensitive and tough. We should all teach our young boys how to be human, to be kind and loving. And most importantly, there’s nothing a man has to show or accomplish in order to be a man.