Covid-19 in Tanzania. Hidden from the eyes of many, but visible to young women: the impacts of COVID-19 in Tanzania
Story by Monica Kurumbe, Social Worker, Ereto Maasai Youth (EMAYO), a partner organization with The Kesho Trust, a charity entity in Canada.
When talking about COVID-19 in Tanzania and the necessary health precautions needed to fight it, such as social distancing and wearing of masks, no one is interested or willing to actively listen to you. Since late April, life in Tanzania has carried on as it had before the pandemic. On the 29th, the country was declared free of the virus and no new official data has been published. However, the effects of the pandemic have passed through borders as the country depends on others for many services, including trade and tourism. Contributing approximately 17.6% of the country GDP, the tourism industry was especially hit hard and people employed within the sector were greatly affected.
As a social worker working with young women and girls, I have witnessed the challenges faced by young women in the community working on Zanzibar Island, a famous world tourist destination. Samira* is one of those young women who has been affected by a decrease in visitors to Zanzibar Island because of the pandemic. Before COVID-19, Samira worked as a waitress at a hotel. From this job, she was able to provide food, medicine, and other necessities for her family throughout the year. But when the pandemic hit and hotels and beaches closed, she was forced to return home. Samira lost both her salary and the benefits that she was entitled to, and as a result, was no longer able to sustain her family as she had before.
After a few months of unemployment at home, Samira decided to look for a job at a local town known as Songe. There, she faced sexual abuse like many other young women in Tanzania who are prone to sexual violence from men who take advantage of their situation. One day she told me, “I visited a local office at our nearby town and asked to meet with the boss. When I met with him asking about an advertised job, he told me to leave my contact information. Later that day, he called me and instead of talking about my application, he asked if I could meet him at a hotel. He added, if I accept what he wanted, he would consider me for a job.”
Samira told me that she was scared to go and meet with the boss, but at the same time, she needed a job. The situation ended badly: after Samira decided to meet with the boss, he did not consider her for the promised job, nor did he take her phone calls anymore.
Many young women in Tanzania, like Samira, are facing difficult times because of the COVID-19 pandemic, where jobs are scarce due to the lockdown and deteriorating economy. Now, women need to come together and support each other more than ever. Samira still cannot provide food for her family, nor can she pay the costs of running her home and other bills. I am personally worried that men in senior positions with power will continue to abuse young women like Samira who are eagerly looking for work.
In Tanzania, local solutions, such as drawing on social capital, the wise use of healthy relationships and community support – can offer answers. Understanding who is living near you, or in your community; talking with people around you and supporting wherever you can. It is always better to speak up, instead of keeping quiet. Together, we can support each other and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity.
originally posted on https://www.ncgc.ca/newsstories/covid-tanzania
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