“Allow teen mothers to resume school or we will blacklist you!” African women threaten Magufuli

For immediate Release: Nairobi – 23/6/2017

African women and girls are outraged and incensed by yesterdays utterances by Tanzania President John Magufuli that teenage mothers impregnated while still in school should not be allowed to go back to their studies for fear of influencing other school girls to also fall pregnant.

“That in this 21st Century, President Magufuli whom we thought pegged his campaign on a transformational streak can wake up one day and re-victimized teenage girls who fall pregnant while in school is incredulous and utterly disgusting especially after all the efforts over the years to decriminalize teen pregnancies!“ exclaimed Dinah Musindarwezo, the Executive Director of the pan-African organization, African Women’s Development and Communication Network, FEMNET.

“African women are strategizing and mobilizing with other women’s rights organization to compel President Magufuli to make an apology to Tanzania’s girls and all the young women in Africa and retract that statement immediately!”

Yesterday, president Magufuli was quoted in Daily nation’s Publication The East African saying the girls should not be allowed back to school during his administration.  “If we were to allow the girls back to school, one day we would find all girls in Standard One going home to nurse their babies.” He said and instead proposed that the girls be taken to vocational training centers where they would not “influence others to also get pregnant”.

“With all the work we have done to emancipate Africa’s girl-child from the shackles of discrimination and violation, a sitting president turns-around and “re-victimize” and treating their situation like a terrible infectious disease which other girls must be protected from”.  This is just unacceptable and the Tanzania Civil society and all women’s rights organizations regionally and globally must not allow this unfortunate threat to suffice”, said Ms. Musindarwezo.

Shocking Retrogression

“We are shocked and disgusted. It is a betrayal of the highest order. President Magufuli now stands black-listed in our course” Reacted Kavinya Makau, an African feminist lawyer and women’s rights defender. “It is a shame that Tanzania which has obligations to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) of which Tanzania ratified in March 2007, would take this retrogressive path”

Kavinya indicates that President Magufuli’s government ought to respect, promote & protect the rights of women and girls as per regional and international Obligations in Article 2, 12, and 17 of the Maputo Protocol.

The Director of Equality Now, Africa Office, Faiza Mohammed stresses, “It is unfortunate that instead of addressing sexual violence in schools (which is why girls are getting pregnant) President Magufuli aims to re-victimize young girls by denying them their right to education. This is unacceptable, unconstitutional and violates various international human rights treaties that Tanzania is obligated to adhere to including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. This is not what you would expect of a public leader let alone the President of the Republic!”

Violated in retrogressive cultural practices in several parts like Female Genital Mutilation and forced child marriages, the girl child in Tanzania has a myriad of violations committed against her that must be urgently eradicated and not encouraged. As of 2015 there were 118 births per 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19

A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that 37 percent of Tanzanian women aged 20-24 years were first married or in union before the age of 18, between 2000 and 2011.

22.8% of young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are mothers, according to the latest available government data from the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey 2010. Tanzanian women, the survey shows, have an average of 5.4 children each.

In the Maputo Protocol which Tanzania has ratified, Article 2 obligates governments to – Promote the principle of equality with a gender perspective in their policy, legislation, development plans, programs and activities and also protect girls from discrimination and violence.

Article 3 obligates governments to enhance dignity and put in place measures to prohibit any exploitation or degradation of women.

Article 5 emphasizes the elimination of Harmful Practices.

Article 6 states that Marriage should be at a minimum age of 18 and in best interests of the woman and Article 8 pushes for access to Justice and Equal Protection before the Law.

Tanzania is also a signatory to CEDAW – the Convention on the Eradication of all forms of discrimination against women that conclusively and vehemently outlaws all forms of discrimination against women and girls.

Tanzania’s Statistics of Shame

Tanzania’s girl-child education statistics are disheartening to the least.

According to the UNDP, 5.1 million children aged 7 to 17 are out of school, including nearly 1.5 million of lower secondary school age. Only three out of five Tanzanian adolescents, or 52 percent of the eligible school population, are enrolled in lower-secondary education and fewer complete secondary education.

In 2009, almost 9,800 students “dropped out” of primary and secondary school due to pregnancy. In 2010, more than 8,000 female students—1,760 in primary school and 6,300 in secondary school—“dropped out” of school due to pregnancy. In 2011, that number was 5,767, with the vast majority of pregnancy-related “dropouts” recorded in secondary school.

In Form 1, the first year of secondary school, there are approximately 6,000 more adolescent boys than adolescent girls enrolled in school.489 The data shows that each year, consistently fewer adolescent girls than adolescent boys transition to the next grade.490 By the time students have reached Form 4, the final year of secondary school for most students, the gap has widened to over 44,000 more males. 84.9% of males and 70% of females who start Form 1 complete Form 4.

“When he president Magufuli looks up at these shameful statistics does he think it is something to celebrate?” Paused Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET, “He should join the right side of history by advocating for the education rights of Tanzania’s girl-child or risk being black-listed as a “womens -violation enabler”!

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About FEMNET:

Over the past 28 years, FEMNET has distinguished itself as a visible and credible pan-African women’s rights organization that works with its members to assert influence at strategic regional and global levels. FEMNET has fulfilled this mandate through diverse strategies of mobilizing and networking women and girls, facilitated by leveraging a membership network consisting of over 500 members of all diversity in 43 countries across the African continent and in the diaspora. Continentally and globally, FEMNET is recognized as a credible voice for African women and girls in significant decision-making platforms. Our recognition and legitimacy is especially drawn from our membership whom we serve and whose voice we continuously strive to amplify and represent.