Legal Services Facility > Our Heroes > Gender-based Violence > The loss of a husband and everything else

The loss of a husband and everything else


Pili Richard (second right), stands next to the Kiwale village executive as he points to the new boundary in the cornfield that was at the centre of the dispute between her and her stepson in Malinyi, Morogoro.

Across rural Tanzania, where most people struggle just to get by, and waking up to the reality that, what you owned has been taken over by a stranger can be an almost end-of-the-world feeling.

The experience can feel ten times more painful when you know, you have just also lost the support you always had.

Pili Richard of Kiwale village in Malinyi, Morogoro had gone to stay with her parents while she mourned her husband who had left her with six young children.

Pili’s husband had been taken ill and had to be moved to Mbeya, where close family members preferred to have him for treatment. Back in Kiwale one of his son’s did whatever he could to help find money to facilitate his father’s treatment.

Pili lived with her children in a small house just across the yard from her late husband’s other wife. When the mourning period ended, she returned to her property and found it occupied, when she confronted the man that now lived there with his family, he told her to go away and that he knew nothing about her claim.

She had also brought along young cassava stems ready to plant, but even the crop field next to her house had rows of corn planted by the new tenant, thus leaving her completely lost for what to do.

“When I asked my husband’s son what had transpired, he pretty much scolded me and told me to find somewhere else to live because that was no longer my property, that’s why he had sold it to someone else. I asked him where I would take my children and what would they eat.  He told me to sell charcoal or sell hay”, said Pili.

Her late husband’s wife was also involved in the sale. In absolute fury, she took to the cornfield, dug holes and planted the cassava. A conflict quickly descended.

At the village chair’s office, where the tussle was reported it was learnt that her late husband’s son had sold Pili’s house, two-and-a-half acres of farmland next to it and another twelve, where his late father grew rice all so he could find money to treat his ailing father.

The village chair assembled a team that also included social welfare officers to try and bring the conflict to an amicable end.

“The team I formed went over to the disputed house and plots to assess the situation before making a decision on the most viable approach to solve the predicament. But, while this was happening, I was informed that, Pili had also sought the assistance of paralegals who are known to provide awareness on legal issues and the law in general. I asked the director of the paralegal unit to brief me on the outcome”, the village chair said.

The paralegals brought together Pili and her offenders, and after a long discussion when the parties had come to an agreement, the paralegal unit director returned with the aggrieved parties and informed the village chair that, the conflict had been resolved.

The village chair then asked everyone to meet up at the disputed property, where it would be re-assessed and the matter be brought to its close. It was agreed that, her husband’s other wife next door would relocate elsewhere, and the man that was sold Pili’s house would move in.

The land next to Pili’s house was divided equally between her and her husband’s second wife; of the larger farmland Pili was awarded seven acres and the other woman received five.

Martha Ndandika, a paralegal who also worked on the case told us that, the dispute fundamentally occurred because a large section of people still don’t know the law even though they are aware of the fact that, their actions are contrary to good conduct.

“We provided extensive legal education to everyone involved in this dispute because we realized that a basic understanding of the law was vital. I’m pleased that despite the challenging circumstances that were at the core of this conflict we were able to resolve it in a satisfactory fashion and everyone is happy with its eventuality. We worked very well with the village authority and together we helped turn around what could have become an unfortunate situation”, she elaborated.

Pili expressed her delight the ordeal is over, “Well, I have a home to go to and further to that I can also grow crops here and rest assured that my children will not go hungry. This was a very tense situation and even worse it happened right after I came back still grieving;

“Having my property back allows me to think about our future here with a clearer mind. I intend to continue growing rice and from it earn a living and take my children to school when the time comes”, she explained as we left.

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