Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Women of Karagwe,Tanzania

It is beyond my understanding at this point to state generally how women are treated by men in this society or understand anything about their lives. How can I get an idea without knowing the language and living here a long time and not as a glorified tourist? Are women more deprecated, beaten and generally disrespected here than in other countries? Are women even more cherished in this culture by husbands who sleep huddled with them on straw in a room the size of your closet, a team requiring deep cooperation locked together in a daily struggle of survival. The answers are beyond my comprehension but I feel I need to bring some internal measuring stick and to know how women fare here.
Historically, worldwide, women have suffered so much physical and psycological abuse and, regardless of religious conundrums which profess that the woman is really supreme, the brutal fact remains, that women have had a tough go at it in a man's world. So it must be here as well.
Like all issues of this journey perhaps some clues are found in the faces. I look carefully, but on this subject, will I see the truth?


  1. You might see the truth.

    Pride is there though, in those eyes.

  2. I don't think we have any way of knowing the real truth behind these beautiful faces. And any of us suddenly transported to this world as you have been, I think would have great difficulty discovering just what that truth is in the time that you have there. I see a wall that hides their reality from the world, but I see a strength that carries them from day to day. A strength that those of us from our world would have difficulty in comprehending. No one can change these women's reality in a few days or weeks or months. And perhaps the changes we do make are all on the surface and will help, but completely change their lives? I don't think so. I don't mean to sound like a downer, I just think that we have to try to make things better and hope there will be others to follow, to pick up where you leave off. Thank you for the beautiful photos of these beautiful women.


  3. Whether you can ever know the truth about these women's lives is an unanswerable question at this point, but at least you haven't underestimated the impediments, to which I have to add two more: your race and your gender. Although just the cultural and language barriers by themselves would be formidable enough even for an African-American woman.

    What really shines through in your post, though, is the sincerity of your desire to understand. That is very real and very commendable...and you should realize that you're dealing with a pretty tough customer in this area too. I consider myself a radical feminist, and I can spot sugar-coated sexism in about two seconds--the "religious conundrums" you mentioned. If anything, it enrages me even more than the brutally overt kind.

    What I see in these women's faces: Strength, pride and a certain innate dignity, but above all possibility. It makes me feel that given anything like a level playing field, they would come further faster than most people give them credit for.

  4. dont know, but i definitely dont see defeat in these women's faces, god bless their spirit

  5. It is great to get your first-hand perceptions of life in Tanzania, especially as a fellow middle-aged white guy from America. Regarding your discussion of how women are treated by men in the society, however, I think that a too-close focus may cause you to miss seeing the situation from a broader perspective. I think anyone would agree that in the best case scenario men cherish their wives across all cultures and societies and so treat them with love and respect. Unfortunately this doesn't give us an accurate picture of "how women are treated by men in this society" because that picture must include the totality of the situation. A brief review of information from the Tanzanian government and non-governmental agencies concerned with the treatment of women describes an alarming degree of violence perpetrated on females, from genital mutilation (hopefully on the decrease) to systematic domestic violence, which is generally an accepted practice rarely interfered with by authorities. More broadly women, especially rural women, have much less access to education and the legal system despite some efforts by the national government to address this situation. They are also very limited in terms of economic opportunity due to traditional expectations and limitations.
    Finally, the fact that we are discussing the situation in terms of "how women are treated by men" shows that women are perceived as second class citizens-we are not looking at how men are treated by women, are we? The assumption that the status, roles, and quality of life of Tanzanian women is determined by men is in itself indicative of a lack of gender equality, and such inequality will always result in negative outcomes for the weaker party when the scenario is less than rosy.

  6. First, these shots are powerful - but what they say is a mystery to me. Eyes and faces can sometimes be transparent, but I think more often we see what we want to see. I think they can hide as much as they reveal. For so long eyes have fascinated us and we talk incessantly about what we see or think we see. Since the subject of abuse and non-abuse or cherishing was brought up, I can only say that it's amazing to sit in a room with people who have been horribly abused and listen to their stories. Sometimes the faces give it away, but more often, I think, they give nothing, or they hide the damage. But we will never stop trying to read them.