It offers a form of security for elderly women so they do not live on their own. Chacha says she decided to marry Buraya because she was unable to have children in her previous marriage to a man, who she says physically abused and tortured her.
To bear children, women who are married under nyumba ntobhu usually hire a man and pay him when the younger woman falls pregnant.
It is 12.30pm and an older woman emerges from her tiny mud house. These two women are husband and wife: they are traditionally married and they have children.
This practice is called nyumba ntobhu in western Tanzania. The two women share a bed as a couple, they live together, bear children in their union; they do everything a married couple would, except have sex.
The hired man will also enter into an agreement with both women that he will not demand paternal rights to any children born out of the agreement.
The older woman is the guardian of the children and they usually take her surname.
In some rare cases, a man may return to claim a child, but Chacha says this can be avoided by choosing a man who is not known in the village or who is known to be irresponsible. “I decided to run away from my marriage as I was humiliated and sometimes beaten nearly dead.
At 45 I was not able to have children and I had to look for a new family to give me an heir to my property,” Chacha says while she feeds two of her children.
She says she could not accept the fact that she would die without children of her own.
Her parents were rich and had many cattle so she chose to marry another woman who would give her children.
In the Mara region, nyumba ntobhu allows older women to marry younger women in order to have children of their own and assist with the household chores.