Media Ethnography of Tanzanian Adolescent Women

by Admin on 9 September 2010

This project component is grounded in Tanzania and led by Rose Reuben, PhD candidate at the College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Dar es Salaam.

It is argued that one of the major challenges in the process of democratic development and economic growth in Tanzania is to secure inclusive development processes, whereby all groups of society are: participants, feel included, have a say in decisions influencing them and see a way forward in their individual and collective development. One vulnerable group is youth, particularly young women who are often excluded from informed public debate about economic development and decision making processes. Generally, young women aged 14-21 drop out of school due to unwanted pregnancy, early marriage, and gender biased socialization in school. While assertive behavior is promoted among boys, passive behavior is encouraged among girls. For example, girls are called on to perform domestic duties for teachers at school, such as fetching water, which further reinforces gender stereotypes and takes time away from learning. Also, despite the abolition of school fees, parents are often unable to meet other school costs. This poses a big challenge for the retention of those enrolled. Some parents migrate to distant farms or other districts during the rainy seasons and their children are prone to expulsion from school if they are absent for three consecutive months. Girls normally work to supplement household income, while lack of formal employment opportunities discourages children from completing the primary cycle. Moreover the high number of school pregnancies is an indicator of unprotected sexual activity and the high vulnerability of girls to HIV infection (rates of infection are six times higher for girls than boys).

Pregnancy is the leading cause of dropouts for school girls in Tanzania. According to the Ministry of Education Statistics (2009), 28,600 girls left school between 2004 and 2008 due to pregnancy. One of the main reasons for the large number of pregnant girls is that many have unprotected sex and lack access to contraceptives. Moreover, their social contexts accelerate unwanted pregnancies and school drop out. For example, in the Shinyanga region (western Tanzania), parents threaten to throw their daughters out of their homes if they attend high school (IPS Journalistic report 2010). Many ask their daughters to fail their studies so they can marry as soon as possible because the dowry they receive is a significant source of income. In some remote areas of the country, children as young as 11 are pregnant and the Marriage Act of 1971 legalized marriage between a man and a 14-year-old-girl.

This study focus on ways and means in which young women as ordinary citizens engage with civil society driven media and communication platforms, as well as what socio-cultural and political outcomes this group may have. The focus will be primarily on girls aged 14-21, assuming they are primary and secondary pupils/students in two urban schools and two rural schools. Secondly, the focus will be to young women aged 14-21, grouped together for rehabilitation after they dropped out of school due to reasons such as, sexual abuse, orphanage, earl pregnancy or poverty. My case study will be on the Kiota Womens Health Development Centre- KIWOHEDE in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.