Encountering Gender in Student Life at UDSM: Chrester Tells Her Story 1970s-2000s
The article tells the life history of a young female student, Chrester, as she enjoyed her life while encountering gender contradictions throughout her student life during 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s at the University of Dar es Salaam. The narration covers the age of naiveté as well as her mature age as a senior student. Chrester won the gender battles in her way but could not understand the world surrounding her, which was not without pain; especially that she did not meet a ‘significant other’ in her friendships with young men. The personal struggles against perpetrators—called ‘Punch’—that she faced head on with male students on one hand, and with professors on the other, are analyzed using the feminist conflict theory and the sociological gender theory. Using the ‘gender power over’ framework, the article analyzes episodes of tutors who did not spare her by demanding sex, failure of which she was awarded the lowest grades, thus lowering her degree (GPA). Her mature student life was no better as she tells unfair accounts that could have sent a weak character into despair, but luckily Chrester is well and alive after surviving the hustles and battles in both undergraduate and graduate schools. Conflict and gender-based violence theories are engaged briefly to explain the scenarios. Theoretical reflections are made on this account, taking note of the fact that more conceptualizations on the life cycle of youths need to be undertaken in the Tanzanian context. The article concludes that early empowerment foundations, including confidence building, are very important at an early age for everybody, the lack of which they should be imparted on campus for both students and staff. Women are called upon to draw own ideas on guiding gender relations and confronting gender-based violence some of which are subtle. The UDSM Gender Center could help the University to do more on improving gender relations.