This case is quite unique as unlike many others it involves one side of a family as opposed to two.
There are countless examples of widows facing confiscation of their matrimonial property by in-laws but it’s rare to encounter a situation where a sibling is hell-bent on usurping property belonging to his sister.
The overwhelming majority of Tanzanian cultures places men at a greater advantage over women and this is particularly evident in matters of property ownership.
Cases of women missing out on inheritance or simply being denied their rightful access to property that is already in their hands are rampant.
Incidents of violence or long-term estrangement between family members routinely define the cultural landscape across communities both rural and urban, and this reality confronts hundreds of men and women across the country who work as paralegals under LSF’s Access to Justice Program.
Through this program though, stories of women traversing the thorny path of justice in rural communities abound and more importantly their triumphs over poverty continue to build pillars of inspiration for many others.
“This situation replicates itself enormously around here and as a result I’m called out to address conflicts at the Centre of which are women who in many cases are powerless and ill-equipped to take on the consequences of an inherent cultural elephant in the room”, says Rose Mhimbila, a paralegal in Chamwino, Dodoma who led us to the home of a friendly, warm-hearted widow in the village of Mazengo.
Esther Mabalwe lost her husband suddenly. Soon afterwards found herself in a tug-of-war with her brother over an acre of arable land. Strangely, this land was always in her possession as part of matrimonial property.
Under normal circumstances one wouldn’t expect an outsider even a sibling to pursue it with a view to eventually own it. But this is male superiority territory and what a man wants a man gets. Not so fast though, if legal aid and education has its way!
“My brother harassed me a lot basing his position on the fact a woman around here couldn’t own land. We were three siblings but one of us passed on and we are the only two remaining and you would think he would have sympathy for me a widow but no, to him all that mattered was the land. It’s been a while since we last spoke to each other, we have become enemies so to speak”, she says.