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close this bookTraditional Sex Education in Tanzania (WAZAZI, 1991, 82 p.)
close this folderChapter two THE ETHNIC COMMUNITIES
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Chagga
View the documentThe Fipa
View the documentThe Gogo
View the documentThe Makonde
View the documentThe Makonde Malaba
View the documentThe Masai
View the documentThe Nyakyusa
View the documentThe Nyaturu
View the documentThe Sukuma
View the documentThe Zanzibaris
View the documentThe Zaramo

The Fipa

The Fipa focus group was held in the village of Mkole, in the Namanyere division of the Nkasi district in the Rukwa region. The village population is a mixture of four ethnic groups - Fipa, Sukuma, Rungu, and Nyika.

Seventeen people, ten men and seven women, took part. Their ages ranged from 40 to 70.

Social organization. The Fipa were patrilineal. The smallest unit in the community was the household, which was headed by its oldest male member. His house was in the center of the family compound, with the houses of his children and grandchildren clustered around it.

Several forms of social differentiation cut across family lines.

One was age, which divided the population into elders or wakombe, adults, youth, and children.

Another was property ownership, which separated the rich, who had large farms or many cattle, from the poor, who had nothing and had to sell their labor to the rich.

Still another form of differentiation was professional specialization - making farm implements or weapons, building houses, dancing and singing, or practicing medicine, magic, or the art of war. Important among these specialists were the yanukambuza, elderly women in charge of initiation programs.

Economic organization. Living on fertile land in a favorable climate, the Fipa were primarily farmers and herders of cattle.

Ownership of the farms and flocks was male-dominated. Certain tasks were “male” - cutting down trees, clearing grass, setting up poles for houses, taking cattle to pasture. Other tasks were “female” - planting seeds, drawing water, plastering houses, caring for the household. Because each household was expected to be basically self-sufficient, both men and women had to be hardworking and productive.

Political organization. The leader of the community was the mweneusi or chief of the clans, responsible for the group’s security, peace, and prosperity. He was also his people’s supreme doctor - the one they turned to in times of disaster, suffering, illness, and death. For them, he was the link between this world and the next. They feared him and respected his authority.



· sexual pleasure

· as many children as possible

· expansion of the clan

Acceptable sexual activities

Before puberty

· masturbation

monitored by family

· forming peer groups

and clan

· sensuous songs and dances

· playing father/mother games

· interest in sexually exciting stories and games

At puberty

· interest in sexual development

monitored by family, clan,

· interest in opposite sex

elders, those in charge of

· interest in learning techniques of lovemaking

initiation rites

· private masturbation

· love stories, songs, and dances

At marriage

· courtship, intimate lovemaking

monitored by family,

· wedding

clan, council of elders

· sexual intercourse

· polygamy

Unacceptable sexual activities

Before puberty

· overindulgence in private masturbation

monitored by family

· foul language

· sexual intercourse

At puberty

· intimate lovemaking

monitored by family, those

· foul language

in charge of initiation rites

· interest in watching animals mate

At marriage

· incest

monitored by family

· adultery

and clans

· sodomy

· sexual intercourse with animals

· prostitution

· masturbation

· abortion

· incest



· social approval

· privileges

· material rewards

· praise in songs and dances


· social disapproval

· scolding

· strokes

· denial of privileges

· ostracism

· divorce

The ideal marriage


· sexually stimulating and appealing

· fertile

· hard-working, economically able to maintain family

· affectionate to wife and children

· loyal to clan and in-laws


· expert at lovemaking and sexual intercourse

· able to have many children

· able to maintain household and homestead

· loyal and affectionate to husband, children, her own family, and her husband’s family

Family size

· large

Sex status

· males superior to females


· young people become successful fathers/mothers


· positive

Mode of education

· largely informal/nonformal

Sex life. The Fipa saw sex holistically-as one of the most important elements, not just in their individual lives, but in their life as a community.

Fipa parents were concerned with the proper development of their children’s sex organs, just as they were with other aspects of healthy growth. A mother would nurse a small boy on her lap with his penis touching her pudenda, to see if the penis would become erect; with her mouth full of warm water, she would suck the clitoris of her baby girl to make it swell.

As children grew, they were introduced to the skills and values that would enable them to grow up to be “good” Fipa husbands or wives. Girls were apprenticed to their mothers, older sisters, aunts, and grandmothers; their place was the kitchen. Boys were apprenticed to their fathers, older brothers, and other male members of the clan; their place was by the fireplace, where all important decisions were made.

At puberty, girls were given special instruction by the yanakambuza and other older women. They learned about their maturing bodies, the importance of cleanliness, and their duties to their future husbands, their children, their own families, and their husbands’ families. Among these was the duty to live harmoniously with other wives.

Similarly, male elders taught boys the responsibilities of a husband and household head. A polygamous Fipa man was expected to care properly for each of his wives and their children and to visit each wife regularly to insure her sexual satisfaction.

Both boys and girls were forbidden to experiment with sexual intercourse before marriage. A bride’s virginity was prized, rewarded socially and materially.

Marriage was the culmination of everything young Fipa men and women aspired to. The ceremony was rich in rituals signifying fertility and its magic powers. The wedding night was celebrated with great rejoicing. Actual intercourse was preceded by lovemaking, and the bride made herself attractive by wearing beads and other ornaments. If she proved to be a virgin, her family was praised in song and rewarded with gifts of cattle. If it turned out she was not a virgin, she could be sent home in disgrace.

Adultery was a serious crime. It could be punished by divorce, ostracism, or even the death of both culprits. A pregnant woman especially was not supposed to have sexual relations with anyone but her husband.

Men had greater sexual freedom. A man could take new wives even in old age. The more wives he had, the more children he could sire-and in time, the more workers he would command, enhancing his wealth and prestige.