We live in the 21st century, at a time when having anything is possible at the click of one finger. Unfortunately, this still does not include equal rights for women. Women have been known to face discrimination and ill-treatment from their male counterparts since time immemorial. And, sadly, today is no different. The media is rife with stories of women being raped, harassed, abused and hated upon.
Amidst all of this, a small tribe in Tanzania is breaking stereotypes, setting an example for other women by silently yet unapologetically kicking patriarchy in the gut.
The remote village of Nyamongo in Tanzania is inhabited by the Kurya tribe. Among other ancient traditions that the village follows, there is one which allows only the men of the tribe to inherit land in the village. It also implies that if a woman’s husband dies and she has no son, there’s a good chance that she might be thrown out of her home by other men from the village.
But the women have found an intelligent way to counter this patriarchal custom. They are using another tradition of theirs called ‘nyumba nthobu’, which translates to ‘woman marrying woman’ which has become an increasingly common practice within the tribe.
The tradition began hundreds of years ago with the purpose of enabling widows to keep their property. But do not confuse this with homosexuality because none of these women are lesbians. They are straight women who marry each other only to keep a roof over their heads.
Mugosi Maningo, 49, and Anastasia Juma, 27, married each other in June 2015. Maningo was abandoned by her now deceased husband when he realised that she cannot bear a child. Juma left her first husband with whom she had a boy, because he abused her. She had two more sons with other men, who also left her.
Today, Maningo and Juma are married and live together on the land Maningo inherited from her deceased husband. The fact that they have three sons is enough for other village men to not snatch away their land.
What’s empowering is that these women are free to have sex with any man that they wish to, not bound by the traditional customs of a marriage. And the women are happy to share the same bed.
Dinna Maningo, a relative of Mugosi and a local journalist, told Marie Claire, “They realize the arrangement gives them more power and freedom. It combines all the benefits of a stable home with the ability to choose their own male sexual partners.”
“Nobody can touch us. If any men tried to take our property or hurt us, they would be punished by tribal elders because they have no rights over our household. All the power belongs to us,” Mugosi Isombe told Marie Claire. Isombe has been a young wife to an older woman and is currently the older wife to a young woman.
It is so powerful to see a tribe do so much for the protection of its women, at a time when we are still debating if women should have equal representation in our Parliaments.