Source: AllAfrica
Zanzibar — IN a bid to prove their strength and determination,ten women in Kikungwi coastal Village, about 48 Kilometres, South of the Zanzibar stone town have constructed their own houses without any help from their husbands.

By the village standard, the iron sheet roofed houses are good-looking, while the women are proud of having built the houses from their own initiative as fisherwomen, a rare success story for many women on the Spice Islands.

Once you are in Kikungwi Village, it is easy to notice that women are economically in competition with men including their husbands. Many women hate remaining at home waiting for men to bring food and other needs.

The main activity in the partly rocky village in the south of Unguja Island is fishing and even girls as young as 14 years of age, join their parents in the daily fishing mission, some miles away into the sea to find fish which they later sell at roadside.

"I have to attend school on working days, but since I'm not on Saturdays and Sundays I join my parents to go fishing. I get something between 5,000/- to 10,000/-. It is enough to buy exercise books and other small needs," said Ms Mariam Khamis Rashid, 14.

She said she works hard both in school and on the fishing expedition and thinks she is getting experience for self reliance, adding: "I'm learning this for my future. Men have many wives and yet they cannot care for them well.

Working on my own will enable me minimise depending on the husband." Ms Bahati Issa Suleiman, is the secretary of the Kikungwi Village women group. She says, many women in the area grow up determined to work and "we have reduced economic dependence on our husbands." She said that a group of women, 20 to 50, get into a dhow every morning to go out fishing spending at least three hours in the sea to catch fish.

The women dig for seashells to get its flesh (chaza), squid (ngisi) and octopus (pweza). Traditionally, fishing has for decades been done by men, but Kikungwi women have proved that they can also go into the sea to catch fish, "It is no longer men's work. Yes we can, we may be better than men in conserving environment."

Ms Salama Adam Hassan, 24, said that fishing has saved many women in Kikungwi from abject poverty, "I completed my secondary school last year and since then I have been fishing and now building my own house. I do not want to wait until I get married. As I wait to get married, soon I will have my house." Salama says she and her colleagues in the village are fulfilling their dream of managing their own affairs without necessarily relying on men including husbands, brothers and dads who in most cases have to care for multiple homes.

Ms Hidaya Rajab Juma, 50, "I have been fishing since I was still young, but now I am becoming tired. My stamina in the sea is decreasing drastically because I am aging. However, I still rely on fishing to run my family." She also said fishing has helped her and many women in the village to develop mainly buying clothes for the children, furniture and build a better house instead of living in mud made house thatched with coconut leaves.

Mwachumu Makame Rajabu, 30, a house wife said, "We are learning to become crew members and good swimmers in case of emergency. I am among the first women getting skills as captain of the vessel and once we are ready, we will not need men at all in the sea work." She said that currently their navigator and the crew are men taking them to and from in the fishing mission on various islets.

"We still need men now, because we cannot manage to control the boat particularly when the sea is rough, raising the head sail and anchoring," she said. Mwachumu said their main catch is Chaza fish which is in high demand. "After the catch, our market is at the roadside. Normally we sell all what we get in each day. Each member in our group can sale and get money between five and thirty thousands Tanzania shillings daily, depending on how lucky one is."

Mr Saidi Khamis Makame, 42, "I am now the pilot for the women's dhow fishing boat. But at the same time I train some of them so that they can control the boat. Soon they will be able to sail without a man." He said that many women in the village are determined to work and that most of the men in the village are happier to have hardworking women. "They are not 'goal keepers', we only spend money on big issues in the family," Khamis said.

The pilot man explained that women in the village have been inheriting the fishing work from their parents, because historically fishing has been economic activity for decades, "they do not go in deep sea, they fish in shallow sea catching picking seashells, and Ngisi." Kikungwi have for many years been fishing by getting into men's dhow boats or sometime the women had to hire the boat to out fishing.

But fortunately in the last two weeks, the Member of Parliament (MP) responsible for Kikungwi Ms Amina Andrew Clement bought a dhow fishing boat to the women. According to the Kikungwi Women group, the boat from the MP has saved them from toiling for the men's boat, "we now have our own boat and we plan going to fish in the days we want."

The MP said, "the cost of the dhow fishing boat was about 6m/-and I was prompted to buy the boat for the women because of their hardworking. It happened that one day, I passed by their market and asked how they go out fishing and challenges they face. They told me that they needed a boat to stop relying on men's boat."

Kikungwi women now need boat machine so that their fishing activity is easier particularly during rough ocean or in rescue operations and when there is less wind to push the dhow fishing boat. The MP has promised to help purchase the boat machine costing about 3m/- only if the Kikungwi village contributes half of the money.

Women in Kikungwi village are not feeling overburdened by this additional responsibility at home, rather, they enjoy having cash-in-hand which they can choose to spend on small purchases. Women now have a greater say in small household decisions such as how much money their husband should spend.

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