Rejected but still standing with her children

Mariamu Cheni of Mazengo in Chamwino, Dodoma is a much happier and confident woman today because legal aid made it possible for her to continue living with her children when her marriage ended and together they are rebuilding their lives as one hopeful family.




Mariamu Cheni, a mother of five, today lives contented in her compound with her eldest son and his younger siblings, while her other son attends vocational college away.

Her home in the village of Mazengo in the district of Chamwino, Dodoma, is a hive of activity, and her grandchildren play happily around. This might not have been the eventual scenario, not too long ago because she was entangled in a matrimonial upheaval the stemmed from her husband’s intent to separate from her.

Out of the blue in 2007, she says, he told her that, he no longer wanted to continue being married to her and that, she had no right to property they gained together. A bitter episode of domestic conflicts immediately arose.

“His decision hit me really hard.  I found myself crying and wailing at times. Close acquaintances who knew about it, attempted to intervene and even comfort me, but to me it felt like the end of the world;

“One of the biggest questions that, I had was what I would do with my children because he didn’t want anything to do with them.  He had apparently met a woman, and he was determined to head off with her”, says Mariamu.

Timotheo Ng’hambi is a well-respected local elder. As word of her predicament gained traction, he also became aware and wasted no time reaching out to her, in an attempt to calm her down, and seek a sound solution.




Being familiar with domestic issues brought to his attention, and successfully addressed through legal redress, he contacted Rose Mhimbila who lives and works in the locality as a paralegal for consultation. She immediately visited Mariamu and took up the case.

“When I met Mariamu, she had already made her mind up to move on with her children. After gaining some insight into her plight, I took her to the village executive officer, where he wrote to her husband asking him to a consultation meeting, an invitation he turned down. A second attempt under the auspices of my regional mentor organization and the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) also failed;

“He only relented, when he was notified of the intent to involve the police. At this point, he pretty much figured what the consequences of his actions would be, and he simply opted out and agreed to let her and their children use the land for farming.  With that, he withdrew himself completely from any family responsibility,” says Mhimbila.




Mariamu was now faced with overseeing the entire family on her own and that meant, she had to work twice as hard just to keep her domestic life afloat.

“I’m lucky because my children have been tremendously supportive and they have understood that, we are in this together for the long run. Things have generally gone well for us, because from the land, we have harvested and sold a variety of crops, put our energy together, and even torn down our old, smaller home and replaced it with this larger dwelling. My other son is attending vocational training and his younger siblings are going to school worry-free.  It’s been a major difference for us,” She says.

“This compound is fully owned by her, having bought it and erected these two houses with the income she and her children generated from selling crops off the land formerly under conflict. She is a more resolute woman now, and her life is very much on a straight path”, adds Mhimbila about Mariamu.

Her son, Noel, tells us while mixing red earth to make bricks, “The experience our father put us through was very difficult, but honestly, we probably wouldn’t where we are today if it weren’t for the constant intervention of the paralegal;

“She has in fact become friends with mom, and she often drops by to check on her.  I have also been able to understand my rights as a result of the legal awareness that she availed to us during the course of the conflict. Life has improved, and I’m in fact making bricks so that I can build mom a new kitchen”. says Noel.

Mariamu’s experience didn’t end badly for her, because help was at hand. The quick response of the paralegal allowed her to put her life together, and with the unwavering support of her children, she has fared well and wears a happy face.

The drive she possesses means that, she is building a foundation upon which extreme poverty will not haunt her family, thus reinforcing LSF’s core objective of helping vulnerable women like her to get on the ladder of economic turn-around, and become heroes in their communities.

“I’m indebted to Rose because she took me under her wings and opened my mind to know, understand and use my rights. When this tragedy struck, I was all confused because I lived in a narrow world unaware of the possibilities that have the power to change things for the better. I have said openly that, I will become a champion for legal awareness for other women here, because I am a witness of what it can do”, sums up Mariamu.