I didn’t see my maandazi ladies friends for a week or so, until two of them turned up on my doorstep. They explained that the government had declared that no one was to do business near primary schools anymore. This effectively puts them out of business – the corner they sit on is at the entrance to the local primary school. Only two of them are actually selling stuff, but the other three are still afraid to sit there. The police have been, and you don’t mess with the police.
‘Why aren’t people allowed to do business near primary schools anymore?’ I ask. There is some confusion about this but eventually one of them who has actually read the government edict sheds some light.
It’s to do with sugar daddies. Men who prey on vulnerable girls. Often the girls are hungry, or sometimes they just want the little bits and bobs their friends are able to buy, and these men give them money for food or little presents – in return for sexual favours.
As a protective measure, the government has now declared that school entrances need to be clear. And that includes everyone, from the men with the carts selling pens and biscuits and trinkets, to the ladies selling maandazi, to those sitting around having a chat. These measures are, presumably, the flip side to cracking down on pregnant school girls.
I don’t want to comment on whether the ‘no people near schools’ strategy is an effective one for protecting young girls from sugar daddies – that’s not my place. I want to make an observation about the collateral damage.
Because these measures mean that the livelihoods of my friends, the maandazi ladies, are in danger. They have lost their place to conduct business, and they have lost a large portion of their customers, the school children.
The victims of these sugar daddies are not only the girls, and by extension their families. They are also the women in the community who now have no place to conduct their business.
In our intercultural training, we discussed poverty as a web. As you break free from one sticky thread, your foot is ensnared in another. Poverty’s not merely a lack of money, but several factors all working together, an intersectionality, and you can see that here. These women were doing OK business on the school corner, especially with President Magufuli cracking down on corruption. But their situation has been shown to be precarious. The opportunity has been snatched away, and they are left trying to find another place and clientele.
This is through no fault of their own. They do not lack entrepreneurship or diligence – Mama Juma gets up at 4am every morning to prepare her wares. But they are in a system where women and girls are vulnerable, and these ladies as well as the young girls suffer as society grapples with the danger that some men pose to all women.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.