A two day training took place in Maganzo town, Kishapu District in, Shinyanga region from the 18th to the 19th September, 2014 to raise awareness among Knowledge Center members on the process of getting a New Constitution. This was done to build the capacity of members of Songwa and Mondo Knowledge Centers in Kishapu District for them to in turn, educate other community members on the Constituent Making process.
The training was facilitated by Ms. Beatrice Hezekiel, Tanzania Gender Networking Program’s consultant together with the Songwa Knowledge Center’s chairperson , Ms. Rahel Madundo.
The training drew members of Songwa and Mondo Knowledge Centers together with government officials such as the representative of Kishapu District Executive Officer, Songwa Ward Executive officer, the Village Executive Officer together with Songwa Ward social worker and agricultural officer.
Due to the presence of government officials at the training, some issues were addressed on the spot, while other issues were clarified.
When Ms. Beatrice Lema asked about the participants views on the process of getting the Draft Constitution, Ms. Rahel Madundo said,“ In the beginning of the Constituent making process where politicians were mostly involved in the process, many issues that were discussed by designated officials were political, but after representatives of various groups in the society were included in the Constituent Assembly, issues concerning our communities have now been included in the discussions”.
Another question asked was on the level of the public’s awareness on the Constituent making process. The acting Village Executive officer of Songwa Ms. Fatma Katabaro said that many people do not have a clear understanding about this process because they were not prepared enough on this matter. “In Maganzo, the village constituent councils only lasted for four hours, not considering the number of people located here. Enough education should have been provided to the community before the Constituent Councils began to increase the participation among the community members on the councils ” she said. Supporting her statement another participant by the name Samuel Kalima said that during the village Constituent Councils, many people did not vote for what they wanted, but rather what their fellow community members voted for. He said that this was due to the fact that many community members are in the dark when it comes to issues concerning the Constitution making process.
The facilitator also asked whether the marginalized groups such as women, people living with disabilities, the youth and children participated in the village Constituent Councils. One participant said that on the side of women, individual women did not participate in the councils. This was because many women had other house hold responsibilities to attend to, thus not getting the time to attend. Another reason they did not get involved in these councils was because they did not have a clear understanding about the Constituent Making process. The only women who participated in the Village Constituent Councils were those who represented groups such as Knowledge Centers or women’s groups. On the of youth, individual youth did not participate in the Village Constituent Councils as well because they are normally left out in this process, hence the only youth that participated in the Councils were those from savings and credit groups.
One participant also said that due to the Councils being very few, the councils were far from some villages; hence people living with disabilities could not participate. “The infrastructure was not conducive for them nor was there any assistance to facilitate their participation such as personal helpers for the blind. There also did not show up due to cultural beliefs that force them to be hidden from the community’’ she said.
On the side of participation among the elderly, participants said that since the elderly have formed their group, there were two representatives for the elderly at the Village Constituent Councils, a woman and a man. However, children were left out completely in the opinion poll exercise
When asked to choose areas that best address the problems Mondo and Songwa wards face covered in the Women’s Manifesto on the New Constitution, participants picked the following;
The major issue that stood out was about was health care. Issues such as the lack of maternity wards, harsh treatment from health officers and lack of sufficient medicine were problems mentioned by many participants. The issue of the Ward ambulance being used for other reasons besides carrying patients who need immediate attention and patients being asked to provide money for fueling the ambulance sparked a major debate. This lead to the District Executive Officer’s representative Mr. Mabula Juma replacing the Songwa Ambulance driver.
Another issue picked from the manifesto was about was the right of the girl child. Participants said that they picked this issue because early pregnancy affects many girls in Songwa and are forced to drop out of school while the men who impregnate them go free without any penalties or punishments.
They also wanted the New Constitution to penalize parents who force their children to drop out of school in order to conduct income generating activities for the family. They said that it has now become a practice for children to become responsible for the family, forcing them to drop out of school as a result.
When it came to the issue of citizens having the right to their own land seemed to be a sensitive issue. Many participants said that they would like the Constitution to give each citizen the right to own their own land. They said that investors should get into contracts with land owners as opposed to the current situation where investors get into contracts with the government over land that belongs to community members.
“Investors should meet with community members from time to time so that they listen to the public’s demands especially on the side of creating employment and building schools for the community”, one community member said. Many participants said that mineral investors are not binded by any law to carry out any corporate social responsibility; hence they would like the New Constitution to clearly state the obligations of investors.
Another major issue of concern from participants on the opinion polls that will take place after the Constituent Assembly submits the discussed Draft Constitution. They were concerned about whether citizens will be able to make informed decisions and vote for a constitution that will benefit them while they did not even know what the Constitution was. They therefore recommended that education should be given to the citizens before the opinion polls exercise takes place.
General opinions on the draft constitution. In education, participants want the new constitution to put laws demanding that the age of getting pregnant should be from 18 years. They also wanted the constitution to put laws that ban parents from removing their children from school in order to do business to make an income for the family.
On the side of water, participants demanded that the new constitution addresses the problem of water. “ Water shortage is a very big problem in Songwa and Mondo, this is because we go for as far as three hours just to fetch water. We face problems on the way to fetch water such as girls being stolen by men on the way, being at high risk of getting knocked by cars while crossing the main road, being at high risk of bumping in to wild animals such as hyenas. Water recourses are normally not clean as they are used by human beings and cattle alike” said Ms. Zubeda Masudi, a member of Songwa Knowledge Center.
They also wanted the Constituent Assembly to include the right of all citizens, women and men alike to own and benefit from land.