In northern Tanzania, women are continuing the tradition of marrying other women in a tradition called “Nyumba Nthobu” in order to sidestep a society that often disenfranchises and disempowers them.
In Mara region’s Tarime district, old and young women say, “I do,” in order to create better lives for both themselves and their offspring.
For example, 60-year-old Wegesa Marwa (pictured right) has been married to wife Nyanswi (pictured) for 15 years, because she had no male children with her deceased husband, which means she also had no heir to her land or family name.
Wegesa explains, “In our culture, women cannot inherit property, so I looked for a wife to help, so when I die, they can inherit the family property.”
Nyanswi, 35, has six children with the nephew of Wegesa’s deceased husband. And while he already has his own family and claims no parental rights over his children, he agreed to serve as the biological Father to Nyanswi’s children in order to extend his late-uncle’s name.
While it isn’t clear how far this tradition goes back, other women have also been using the practice to escape domestic violence, which is said to be rampant in the community.
In fact, 60 percent of Tarime women say they have been victims of domestic and/or emotional abuse.
Seeking a way out of violent relationships, women team up, helping to rear children; complete house chores, such as fetching water, farming, and grazing cattle; and provide each other with support.