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A bitter marriage ends, new hope rises

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Just one year after completing primary school education in her village of Rondo Mnara in Lindi, Rose Wangabo (39) was forced into a marriage with a man who at the time was a teacher but has since retired. At the time of their “wedding” this man was old enough to be her father. Before settling on marrying him, her mother often threatened her with expulsion from home and a curse if she turned him down. Rose says that because of the respect she had for her mother she was left with no alternative but to succumb to the pressure.

“Marrying a public servant is considered a golden opportunity out here. I had to give in to pressure however out of the 19 years of marriage with  that man I only lived happily of three of them. I felt of no value, I was treated horribly; he let other women into our home and allowed them access to anything they wanted. They went so far as to harvest from my own crop field that I toiled in with- out even asking me. The final nail to the coffin was when he decided to marry a second wife and kept me in the dark about it”, says Rose sadly.

Rose, who is childless, was forced to endure this treatment because her mother depended on her. She says her former husband secretly took out his pension and she only knew about it from other people and that’s when she sensed that she was on course to lose out on any rights. Gripped by this fear, she proceeded to file a claim at the primary court which later ordered him to build her a house after asking her what she wanted as settlement.

However, things took a turn for the worse after one of her husband’s children took a knife and attempted to stab her with the intent to kill her for staking a claim on what he considered property she had no share in.

In 2018 she was divorced unexpectedly and was told by her husband that she will not be getting anything, that she had to leave that same night because after all the house he had been ordered to build for her was already completed. That’s when left in the dead of night empty-handed not knowing where she would spend the night, what she would sleep on, cook with or even eat! She effectively was left penniless.

 

The Lindi Women Paralegal Centre (LIWOPAC) which works across all the districts of Lindi is well-known for its good record of facilitating access to justice particularly for vulnerable women. Some of the local people that were aware of Rose’s problems contacted her mother and then Rose and encouraged her to speak with LIWOPAC paralegals where she eventually was brought together with her now former husband in a bid to resolve their impasse.

Scholastica Nguli, the paralegal that took up Rose’s case, says, “When Rose and her mother came in I heard their story and proceeded to formally write her former husband asking him to come into our office for discussions on the matter and attempt to find a solution. He simply refused to split anything with her claiming that she was employed when he married her and she therefore can afford to but home ware when in fact Rose was only a housewife”.

Nguli adds that following protracted discussions and legal enlightenment her former husband consented to dispensing with some of their household belongings including furniture and land, a gesture Rose accepted wholeheartedly. He called Nguli after a few days informing her that he had effectively made good on his promise, however she insisted on solid proof because she didn’t want to take him at his word, and that’s when LIWOPAC paralegals travelled to Rondo Mnara and confirmed that Rose had indeed received the property.

 

Rose, who now live in the house her former husband built for her following a court order says she also received two-and-a-half acres of farm land which she sold and purchased a new piece of land next to a previous one gifted to her by her grandmother several years ago. On the now much larger field she is growing food crops and has planted 200 trees which she intends to harvest for timber in a few years’ time and earn enough to accomplish her dream of an even better, more prosperous life than today.

“I’ve seen a remarkable difference between now and how my past was during the conflict I was going through. It’s important to say that the only reason I ‘m at this point today is the presence of paralegals. I was effectively blind, unable to see the light of day until their intervention which provided me with the springboard to a better life. My crop fields are doing very well and I expect to begin harvesting in a few months while also tending to my timber plantation. This is a phenomenal change”, she sums things up.

Rose’s story represents countless other women experiencing challenges that emanate from difficult circumstances that commonly occur in their communities. In spite of the difficulties, Rose now has an opportunity to lead a tranquil life that enables her to enhance her own economic situation and effectively overcome the plight of poverty. She believes that 10 years from today she will be in an ostensibly improved situation. This is an example of positive outcomes of the work that paralegals carry out around the country, saving the lives of many less fortunate people, particularly women, from otherwise certain demise.

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