Here’s to the women of Tanzania on International Women’s Day!

,

This blog was written by Bonnie Osborn, a Communications Specialist that has conducted successful volunteer assignments on the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Access to Finance program in Tanzania and the USAID Feed the Future Tanzania Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise (ENGINE) program. Bonnie had the opportunity to work closely with the women in the communities she served and believes their stories should be shared and celebrated on this special day.   

In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day event, I recognize and celebrate the women of Tanzania who, despite many challenges, are physically and emotionally strong, have the most positive attitudes imaginable, and who #ChoosetoChallenge each and every day for their and their families’ survival. They live in a challenging environment where Tanzania is ranked 151 out of 188 on the United Nations Human Development Index and 12 million Tanzanians live below the poverty line. Inequality is a major challenge in Tanzania, even though there is policy and legal framework to combat this issue. Men and women have equal rights in parental authority, and there is no known legislation restricting women from becoming head of household. However, in practice, customary norms in rural areas are still biased against women, limiting their ownership of and control over money and other household resources. Women work an average of 62.3 hours/week and in addition to long hours of heavy labor, many women have low literacy levels and limited control over household income, and lack decision-making authority (for example, over when to seek health care).  Discrimination is embedded in customary laws, social norms, and practices and by inappropriate legal protections against gender discrimination in all dimensions of social institutions. Gendered institutions change slowly.

In spite of this environment, there are many women who have Chosen to Challenge gender stereotypes and bias, and who now enjoy a successful work life and better ability to support their families.

Meeting of the Zinduka Women Group

The Zinduka Women Group, pictured here, consists of 25 members from Mshewe, Mbeya, who have struggled to gain property rights as women. The issue has also caused conflict within their own families as they challenge gender stereotypes. After a very lengthy and arduous process, the women were finally able to purchase land as a group. The members grow crops, sell produce, and now package some products for sale. Now, the women believe that their children have more respect for them and that their husbands are beginning to understand that sharing financial responsibilities benefits the family. Their self-esteem has also been greatly enhanced.

The group of women pictured here are from Mngenta, Iringa. They have Chosen to Challenge by coming together to obtain chickens from a supplier who will then collect and sell the eggs to neighboring businesses. The women have individually prepared chicken coops that meet the standards of the supplier. They know of other village women who have participated in similar ventures; this network of information-sharing has shown that coming together as a group will significantly increase their profits and income.

Again, a toast to these women who #ChooseToChallenge gender norms everyday in pursuit of a more gender equal world.

Woman from neighboring Masai Village with her chickens