For the few lucky ones who have amassed wealth from the mining and fishery industries, the resources were a real blessing. But going by plight faced by many in the mineral and fishery rich areas, it was like the God given resources were solely reserved for those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
For the majority poor, the presence of mineral and fishery resources was a curse. Various testimonies attest that even a single meal for some was not guaranteed in any way unless they had to resort to some other despicable means to make their ends meet.
But yet, mining and fishing activities are like a natural magnet. Thousands of people migrate to potential areas oblivious of the worse predicament they would likely go through in the aftermath. Their hopes of earning a meaningful livelihood in the gold rich areas are only dashed against survival for the fittest theory.
Unfortunately, the adolescents and young women who suffer most are credible instances of victims of the prevailing circumstances. In Chato and Bukombe Districts in Geita region, young girls were plunged into grand scale sort of prostitution as source of earning income. It is because those who were supposed to provide their protection were the very ones who have turned them into something like purchasable commodities on the auction.
Some of these girls were as young as thirteen to fifteen years old and did so at out of their own instinct.
Child exploitation was perpetrated in daylight and the culprits were apparently let scot-free. Witness Nyanyama(15) is a credible instance of rampant child rights abuse in the fishery resource rich District of Chato where fishing activities are blamed for school dropouts and chronic absenteeism.
Instead of attending class, the young kids, both female and male, are attracted to petty businesses like selling foodstuffs and some are being employed as fish hawkers along the Lake Victoria.
Their right to go to school has remained sheer illusion owing to circumstances that had culminated into some female teenagers succumbing to unprotected sexual encounters and early marriages. Witness is one of the victims who have fell prey to fish and gold dealers with inordinate sexual appetites. The young girl’s lust to earn a livelihood plunged her into a worse predicament soon after her absolute failure to enroll with secondary school.
Unlike others who drop out from school in early classes, Witness had successfully made it to standard seven. Poor income bases in her family curtailed the chances for a standard seven graduate to continue with secondary education. Though, she had passed the final examination at primary level, her lone female parent’s failure to meet the initial costs for enrolling her with secondary education was a major bottleneck.
The immediate option for the desperate girl was to venture into fish mongering business along the shores of Lake Victoria. She believed this was a self-employment sort of enterprise that could earn her an income with which to foot the domestic needs for her mother, two younger brothers and one sister. But the young desperate girl was wrong. It was no sooner than her expectations could be realized that she was ensnared in a sexual affair with one of the fishermen who impregnated her and made away to unknown whereabouts.
A few months later she found herself caring for a huge family comprised of a newborn plus the rest of members in her family who had been depending on her small income. An affair acted out of poverty and sheer ignorance shattered the young girl’s entire life hopes.
"Nyanyama's younger brother takes care of a baby as her mother attends farm works where she earns an income to cater for their poor family. The mother of a young baby is among the victims of alarming trends of child exploitation which have shattered the life of many children in the natural resources rich areas in Chato and Runzewe towns in Bukombe District.
Witness abandoned fish mongering business which she thought largely contributed to her ensued misery. The alternative occupation was to accompany her mother and both worked as farm labourers for some landlords who provided them a income and food. Often, she had to leave her young baby in the custody of a younger brother. This young brother had also stopped attending school previously owing to the family becoming so penniless that could not afford providing him with essential scholastic materials.
Yunda Chirangu, the secretary of Kikundi Cha Wazee Milumba said the plight of children in fishing areas was of their great concern. In response to the prevailing situation, the group solicited some funds from The Foundation for Civil Society to run public awareness campaign on protection of child rights.
Mr Yuda said that among other factors, the reported incidents exacerbated children’s vulnerability to HIV infections characterized by high risk disease transmission society comprised of migratory fishing communities.
The incidents of child exploitation in Chato are more or less the same as what is happening to most young girls in Runzewe, a sprawling shanty town located in a close proximity to the gold rich mines.
Catherine (19) who hails from Kakonko in Kigoma region has never been to school. She migrated to Runzewe, a famous place for promiscuous sexual practices in Bukombe District and was employed as a house girl. This young girl’s assignments to domestic chores did not attract direct remuneration.
To the contrary, she received little money provided by men who slept with her under the arrangement worked out by her employer. According to Cathy, she was not even aware of the actual amount paid by her sexual “clients” because the money was often paid through a female employer.
“In fact I really don’t know the actual amount that was paid to my employer. Each time I was made to sleep with a man, I received a different amount ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 for a single sexual act endured with men aged as twice my age and even thirty years above me” said Cathy.
During the daytime, Cathy and her employer were running small enterprise involving sale of cookies, vegetables and fruits. After sunset, the two returned to their ramshackle structure and prepared meal. If there were no men visiting their home that evening, her employer would often ask her for a company around the streets.
Along the drinking places, they are stuffed with free drinks but in most occasions, the recipients had to reciprocate to such generosity by being pushed into bed like pleasure objects. Cathy does not recall how many times really she slept with such men without clear knowledge of taking sort of precaution like insisting on her clients to wear condom each time of the act.
After months of doing the same business under the supervision by her sexual promoter cum employer, Cathy felt it was high time she rented her own room and do the business all alone. This not only meant to give her the autonomy to have her own choice of the right sexual clients, but also to have full bargaining powers and control over revenue earned from the despicable source of income.
A priest affiliated with one of the Churches in Runzewe said sexual exploitation of young girls was exacerbated by certain individuals who purportedly employ them as housemaids. However, he said in actual fact most of these children were turned out to be sexual workers.
Sexual business in Runzewe involved the young and adults. Mining activities was allegedly a major triggering factor of promiscuous sexual practices in Runzewe which has been named after a Swahili word “Shamba Nyege”. According to residents, the word is literally intended to reflect promiscuous sexual practices in the area.
But what amazes the priest is failure by relevant authorities to take appropriate measures against the situation. He referred to some cases whereby perpetrators of child exploitation had been reported to the law enforcing authorities who have always kept tight lipped.
“Even the police seem to be less concerned about certain individuals who purportedly employ young children as house girls or barmaids but finally turn them out into sexual workers” he said.
For instance, the owner of a place in Runzewe trading alcoholic drinks who paid young girl employee almost nothing and asked them to supplement their meager income by sleeping with sexual maniac gentlemen.
However the police say it was difficult to arrest prostitutes unless there was a specific directive with clear guidance on the action to be taken against offences of that nature.
The priest recalled one such instance during which a young prostitute sought police assistance after being denied her rightful sum by a man who had slept with her. The man had to pay 10,000/= as per contract terms but having quenched his thirsty, he turned round insisting to pay half of the agreed amount.
This ensued a fierce quarrel and eyewitnesses said the disgruntled young woman was shouting at the top of her voice which attracted a crowd of people residing in the neighbourhood to pour to the scene. However, unfortunately there was very little the crowd could do to amicably resolve the dispute and the complainant hurriedly resorted to the police intervention. The police arrested the man, one of the drivers of cargo trucks en-route to Kigali, and ordered him to foot his debt before releasing him.
The priest who happened to be among the eyewitnesses of the incident regards the move by the police forcing the man to foot the sum he owed the young prostitute as tantamount to condoning the rampant acts of prostitution.
“Such a decision by the police means even the law enforcing organ was quite clear about the amount that was supposed to be paid and for the particular commodity services” he observed.
However, the greatest concern was when such acts involve children. Bukombe District Aids Control Coordinator Mr Emanuel Doto sounded an alarm that children aged between 13 and 15 years have been trapped in prostitution.
Mr Dotto said child prostitution involved female children christened as “Sungura Tope” which literally means “mud-spattered rabbits”.
When it grows dark, the children are seen moving in groups of three to five looking after sexual maniac guys and mostly the drivers who sleep over Runzewe town on their way to respective destinations.
“There are reports that one of these drivers could sleep with as many as four young girls the night over and pay them a remuneration of 1000 each” the official said.
He said the incidents were conducted under heavy cargo trucks in what they have termed as “kill me quick” phenomenon. Mr Dotto said although the District had recorded a slight fall in HIV prevalence in the past few years, yet it had one of the alarming prevalence rates of the disease across Geita region.
A random survey showed that condoms as one of the means for protection against HIV infections were unevenly available in most guest houses where promiscuous sexual practices take place. Once a client wants to use condoms has to buy some from nearby kiosks. And whatever remains is picked for prospective “short time” clients who may not bear with the trouble to find them from somewhere else.
But the question here is how safe are randomly picked condom leftovers could be trusted to provide protection against HIV infections and perhaps, hence a reason for the reported high prevalence rate.
The statistics show that Bukombe District recorded the highest rate of 6.9 percent HIV in 2009 with slightest drop to 6.7, 6.6 and 6.3 percents in between 2010 and 2013 respectively. Despite a myriad of factors accelerating the prevalence, the District Aids Control Coordinator was optimistic of a more prevalence decline owing to immense support by various stakeholders in the fight of the scourge.
One of these stakeholders is The Red Cross Society of Tanzania. The charitable organization has launched several programmes that provide prevention and care services. The Red Cross Programme Coordinator in Bukombe District Mr Ali Mavoa said among the interventions devised to spare youth off the deadly disease included magnet theatre shows.
“Telling the youth to stay away from sexual practice could not work out in isolation except when such effort was coupled with messages encouraging them to use other effective means in protecting them against the HIV infections” he said
Through the magnet theatre, the youth and community at large were educated on self esteem, risk environment and adherence to societal morals. Such interventions also included emphasis on correct use of condoms especially in HIV high risk transmission areas of mobile population.
“Since HIV has wrecked havoc in many places of the District including Runzewe, we also have introduced social support component for vulnerable families which caters for about 816 children and 585 sick people” said Mr Mavoa.
He said the social support component was necessitated by the fact that although Bukombe was the mineral resource rich District, the significant percentage of its population was living in abject poverty.
Bukombe District has the major mineral resource in Tulawaka and other small scale mines in Mwabomba, Mwime and Mwangarata to where scores of people from various destinations migrate in search for a livelihood.
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