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Vulnerability, marginality and Barriers to Girls’ Education: A Preliminary Exploration of the Case of “House Girls” in Tanzania

Women make significant contributions in social and economic development of any society but face discrimination, marginalization and multiple barriers to formal education which could further challenge their developmental roles. Many communities in Tanzania still hold outdated traditional practices which favour the male child in the provision of basic rights such as education. This paper discusses the experiences of house girls in Tanzania. In poverty stricken families, the girl-child is forced to take up jobs like that of the house-girl which often limit or curtail their ability to acquire formal education. This study was conducted in Northern Tanzania, in the rural areas of Mwanza region. A qualitative research approach which utilized a critical ethnographic research design was employed. Data was collected through in-depth individual interviews and observation methods. A total of ten house-girls participated in the interviews. In addition, data obtained from a review of literature, anecdotal evidence and informal conversations with various community members also contributed to this study. The results highlight the circular and cumulative causational relationship in which education is both a symptom, and simultaneously a cause of the problem. The study indicates that house girl employment typically begins at a very young age and it disrupts girls’ education and blights educational outcomes. Likewise, the study indicates that regardless of how hard a girl works does not lead to an improvement in economic outcomes. Recommendations are made for the government and non-governmental leaders to devise strategies and policies that will promote and safeguard the rights of girls. Key words: Vulnerability, marginality, education, gender equity, house girls, child labour

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