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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Tanzania 'housegirls' face sexual abuse
By Daniel Dickinson
BBC, Dar es Salaam

Josephina Mbaya
Josephina managed to escape
Female domestic workers in Tanzania are being given advice about how to deal with sexual harassment by their bosses.

Research just published by a women's organisation suggests that 60% of these workers, known as "housegirls", are being sexually abused in their workplaces.

The housegirls are often young and often can do little to prevent the abuse.

Tanzania Media Women's Association (Tamwa) which published the report surveyed over 730 housegirls, including 15-year-old Josephina Mbaya.

Last November, she started working in the house of a senior government official.

In many cases, they are threatened with losing their jobs if they do not have sex
Ananilea Nkyaname, Tamwa
It was not long before he started propositioning her.

"He came to my room one night and said he wanted sex with me. I refused... but in the following days and weeks he kept on asking me to have sex."

"I felt terrible because he was very old, old enough to be my grandfather. It wasn't right what he did. I am too young, I haven't even had my first period."


Like many housegirls, Josephina came to Dar es Salaam from upcountry in search of work.

She lived at her boss's house and was paid 10,000 shillings ($10) a month.

Her boss was persistent, tying all sorts of inducements.

"He promised to give me money and gifts as well as increasing my salary but I didn't believe him. He was very angry when I refused."

Tanzania 'housegirls'
'Housegirls' sometimes get paid $10 a month
It is perhaps a sign of Josephina's maturity that she managed to fend off this man.

She fled his house just two weeks ago without picking up her paltry wages.

She is one of the lucky ones, according to Tamwa's director, Ananilea Nkya.

"We have some cases where housegirls have been raped by their bosses and other male members of the family."

"In many cases, they are threatened with losing their jobs if they do not have sex."

One woman said she had not been paid for four months because she was refusing to yield to her boss's advances.

Ms Nkya said most of the victims come from the poorest parts of Tanzania.

Housegirls are now being given advice by Tamwa about their legal rights if they are sexually abused or raped.

There is however nothing in the law to help young people like Josephina who are not physically interfered with.

She is now back on the streets and wondering where to find her next $10 a month job.

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