A proposal will go before Tanzania’s parliament asking it to compel 40% of the monthly salaries of husbands to be paid into the accounts of housewives.
The proposal is the brainchild of the Regional Commissioner for Dar-es-Salaam, Paul Makonda. He believes the measure would help alleviate the frustrations of domestic labor and child upbringing.
Like many parts of the world, Tanzanian women are not as financially secure as their male counterparts. On top of that, they are expected to fulfill domestic labor.
Nairobi News reports that Makonda revealed his intention during the celebration of International Women’s Day at the weekend.
“I will petition the National Assembly to introduce a law that will enable 40 percent of salaries of men in formal employment deducted and credited to the bank accounts of their spouses who are housewives,” Makonda reportedly said.
He even went further to put out a toll-free number that he says “depressed” women could call to seek help.
Makonda’s proposal, even before it is composed into a bill before parliament, is undoubtedly controversial. Even by western progressive standards, this is a huge request.
A largely conservative and patriarchal society, Tanzania has in recent times come in for international condemnation after its government enacted a law that prohibits pregnant young women from going to school.
The crackdown on pregnant schoolgirls began more than two years ago. Initially, public education authorities constituted a task force to arrest pregnant young women in schools.
President John Magufuli, a self-described disciplinarian, has defended his government’s hard stance against teenage motherhood.
It was not the first time Tanzania had to lose funds from the World Bank as a result of its stiff laws against pregnant schoolgirls. There was another incident in 2018.
The stern regulation against pregnant students is a manifestation of deeply held beliefs about the place and role of women. These come from traditional norms that are still very popular in the country.
Indeed, the regulations that seek to keep young pregnant women out of school make no room for any correctional measures against the men who got them pregnant.
In a similar fashion to banning young women from school, the Tanzanian government, last year, went to court to defend old cultural institutions that support child marriage.
The court, in an earlier ruling, quashed child marriages, referring to them as unconstitutional. But the government claimed that child marriages actually protect young women who are impregnated out of wedlock.
Child rights activists argued that the practice was exploitative and had forced so many young girls into subservience.
The court upheld its ruling.
Makonda’s hopes are well-intentioned. But in order to see things come to fruition, Makonda has to overcome local customs etched in a traditionalism that is sometimes seen as anti-colonialist or anti-imperialist.
All the same, one may say it is a welcome surprise that one of the most radical proposals to empower women is coming from one of Africa’s most conservative countries.