Traditional Female Gender Roles in Tanzania

One thing I noticed that was very evidently different in Tanzania than in the United States was the role that the female played in society. I lived in a host family with a Mama(mom), Baba(dad), and Kaka(sister). My Mama did some serious work! She woke up before 6 am, did laundry, cooked breakfast, set the table for us, went and bathed, ate, got ready for work, and left to walk 45 minutes with us to school(the same location as her job). That was all before 8 AM. Our Kaka, Lucy, had a similar story except she went to school instead of work. At work, Mama did housecleaning. When she got home around 4 oclock. She sometimes went to the market, cleaned the house, cooked more, set the table, ate, made tea, washed all the dishes, and went to bed around 10 oclock. In the United States, although my mother does many of these tasks in our home, but she doesn’t do all of this in one day. Also, her cooking facilities are significantly more easily usable than my Mamas. Lucy, who is 13, has been trained to play the role of the wife since the day she was born. I spoke to an older daughter of my host parents, she is 27 and works at a bank in Dar es Salaam, and she said that unless you are able to cook, clean, raise children, and keep a job, no man will want to marry you. This indicates the amount of pressure that is put on women to be domestic and “house trained” in Tanzanian society. Whenever I tried to talk about women’s rights with anyone except University students, I got blank stares, as if these women had never contemplated their ability to live different lives. Although it makes me sad knowing that these women are limited to being a domestic housewife, I know that my Mama is a very joyful human being. She laughed all the time and she said she truly enjoyed serving others. I hope other women in Tanzania can say the same.

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2 comments

  • Kayleigh Kuyon on August 30, 2015 at 7:48 pm said:

    I thought your comments on Women’s Rights was really interesting. I know it’s always one thing to hear about it, but hearing it from someone who is coming from a similar place as you (OU) just makes it more real I suppose. I guess all we can do is advocate. But I liked how you ended it on a more positive note, talking about how Mama truly enjoys serving and helping others.

  • Siandhara Bonnet on August 31, 2015 at 5:11 am said:

    Woah. I think that’s pretty crazy that there are still places where men are still the dominant figure in society. I mean, of course the US isn’t equal, but we’re further along. I hope that Tanzania gets to be where we are soon, but I guess as long as they’re happy then it’s okay…

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