News ID: 264867
Published: 1022 GMT January 26, 2020

World Bank urged to scrap $500m loan to Tanzania over schoolgirls' rights concerns

World Bank urged to scrap $500m loan to Tanzania over schoolgirls' rights concerns

An opposition MP and activists in Tanzania are urging the World Bank to withdraw a $500 million (£381 million) loan to the country, amid concerns over deteriorating human rights, particularly for women and girls.

In a letter addressed to the bank’s board members, Zitto Kabwe said he feared the money would be used by the ruling party “to distort our electoral processes’” and ensure an easy victory in an election year, the Guardian reported.

Kabwe, the leader of the alliance for change and transparency party, urged the bank to suspend any loans until “checks and balances” including a free press, free and fair elections, and the reinstatement of the controller and auditor general, are restored in the country.

In a separate letter to the bank, which is Tanzania’s biggest external lender, civil society organizations said it would be “inappropriate if not irresponsible” to approve the loan, which is for an education project, without conditions placed on the government that include introducing legislation to allow pregnant girls to stay in school.

The letter, sent anonymously because of fear of reprisals, catalogued a series of recent crackdowns by the Tanzanian government on NGOs, the media, and individuals critical of the government.

Under John Magufuli, who became president in 2015, the government has forced girls to undergo pregnancy tests and excluded thousands of them from school, said the letter. The government was also accused of encouraging the flogging of schoolchildren, clamping down on family planning services and branding them a western “plot” to reduce the population, and ignoring multiple cases of rape and murder of women in western Tanzania.

Approving the loan would deliver a “slap in the face” to women and girls, and would represent a “full-throated endorsement of this violently misogynist regime”, said the organizations.

The letter calls on the bank to postpone the loan until the government has put in place measures to demonstrate a commitment to “gender equality and the rule of law”. The loan will be considered by the bank’s board of directors on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which has documented the declining climate for activists under Magufuli, called for the immediate release of human rights lawyer Tito Elia Magoti and IT expert Theodory Giyani. They are being held on “spurious charges”, including leading organized crime and money laundering, the groups said.

In 2018, the bank withdrew a $300 million loan to Tanzania amid concerns over its policy of expelling pregnant girls from school.

Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world, with widespread sexual violence and girls exchanging sex for school fees, food and shelter, according to the UN.




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