Human RightsNews

Tanzania’s indigenous girls’ rights defender backs education of 55 students 

They were denied entry into schools for lack of learning materials

MONDAY February 6, 2023

Carcasses were scattered in northern Tanzania in 2009 when wildlife and domestic animals died in thousands as a result of drought. PHOTO | ELCT

By Adam Ihucha

The tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania 

The Tanzania’s champion of girls’ rights, Ms Mesha Pius Singolyo, has supported 55 Form One schoolgirls in dire need of basic scholastic materials to join boarding schools in pastoralist communities in northern Tanzania.

The girls from Sale Division in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, have delayed to report to their respective schools for three weeks for lack of the essential scholastic materials, owing to the climate change depleting livestock population, the only source of livelihood for pastoralist communities.

Ms Singolyo, an indigenous activist against child marriage and winner of National Champion of Change 2022, assisted the helpless female students with mattresses, buckets, counter books, pens, pencils, and sanitary pads, among other gear, for them to comply with the boarding schools’ requirements.

The Chairman of the Ngorongoro District Council, Mr Mohamed Bayo, who was the guest of honor during the materials handing over ceremony, showered praises to Ms Singolyo for her incredible support to the vulnerable schoolgirls from poor pastoralist communities.

“The support comes at the opportune moment, indeed, as our young girls have stayed home for three weeks since the schools had been opened. They could not be accepted into the boarding schools. I can’t thank you enough for your invaluable assistance,” Mr Bayo explained.

Girls’ rights defender, Ms Mesha Pius Singolyo (Fourth Left), in a souvenir photo with 55 Form One students who benefited from learning materials support she extended to the schoolgirls at Sale Division in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, recently. PHOTO | COURTESY

He said majority of students had delayed joining the schools because their parents were facing economic hardships, owing to the drought depleting livestock population, causing irreparable losses to the members of pastoralist communities who solely depend on their livestock as the source of livelihood.

The Ngorongoro District Council father implored other well wishers to emulate Ms Singolyo who had been at forefront in helping the indigenous communities, particularly girls, to access education.

Ms Singolyo, the indigenous daughter herself, said her support was part of her latest initiatives not only to mitigate the impact of climate change to the pastoral communities, but also to rescue young girls from the risk of being exchanged with livestock in the form of dowry.

“Customarily girls in pastoralist communities are not given priorities when it comes to education opportunity, the climate-induced shocks are seriously putting the young girls at the highest risk of being forcefully married off in a bid to relieve their families of economic difficulties,” Ms Singolyo explained.

The severe drought had hit hard their livestock population, as it had scorched entire grasses in northern Tanzania, compelling majority of herders to abandon their families and villages in search for green pasture to feed their cattle in the nearby regions.

Ms Mesha Pius Songolyo engages women at Sale Division in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, Tanzania, on harmful norms of child marriage after distributing learning materials to beneficiaries. PHOTO | FILE

“The drought ravaging most of the northern Tanzania has killed thousands of livestock, a few people and has left many families devastated and reduced to impoverished families struggling to survive,” she observed.

Where pastoralists have relied on grassy and arid savannahs for herding animals in the past, these rangelands are now under intense pressure, including the arid and semi-arid band of rangelands stretching from Longido to Ngorongoro District.

“Direct human pressure coupled with climate change effects, soaring temperatures and erratic rainfall create a perfect storm for the pastoralist communities living here,” Ms Singolyo explained.

The activist further said climate-induced effects were more severe in pastoralist communities because the environment is fragile and people’s adaptive capacity is low.

“The climate change and its ripple effects are threatening the pastoralist communities, as majority of men, who are family breadwinners, are depressed and in dire need of counseling, if not abandoning their families altogether,” she observed.

A member of Maasai pastoralist community counts losses as dozens of his cows die in the drought stricken areas of Northern Tanzania. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ngorongoro, Longido and Monduli districts in Arusha Region have traditionally depended on livestock, but with lack of rain, food sources for herds have dried out, forcing many to depend on food aid and charcoal burningΩ

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