Women still have a long walk to freedom


INTERNATIONAL Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated in many countries around the world.

It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, it was first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

The world of work is changing, with significant implications for women.

On one hand, technological advances and globalisation bring unprecedented opportunities for those who can access them.

On the other hand, there is growing informality of labour, income inequality and humanitarian crises.

Against this backdrop, only 50 per cent of working age women are represented in the labour force globally, compared to 76 per cent of men.

What’s more, an overwhelming majority of women are in the informal economy, subsidizing care and domestic work, and concentrated in lower-paid, lowerskill occupations with little or no social protection.

While Tanzania has made progress towards gender equality over the last decade, key challenges remain such as inequitable access to and ownership of land and resources, the low participation of women at all levels of decision making, gender based violence and exclusion of women from the rapid economy.

Tanzania women and girls experience violence at home, workplace, market place and school something that hinder them from engaging in income generating activities therefore impact economic potentials.

To raise awareness of these issues for IWD 2017, I conducted an interview with UN Women Tanzania Representative, Ms Maria Karadenizli, to put the spotlight on the economic empowerment of women in Tanzania.

What is the current state of women’s economic empowerment in Tanzania? Looking at the Integrated Labour Force Survey of 2014, we know that when women own businesses; they make 2.4 times less profit than men.

Only ten per cent of women in Tanzania earn more than their husbands; whereas 73 per cent earn less. Unemployment rates in women is higher – 12.3 per cent as compared to 8.2 per cent in men.

Young women in the ages of 15 to 34 are twice as likely to be unemployed as young men.

Additionally, there is still a substantial gender gap in terms of women’s access to productive resources such as land, finance and capital. Globally we see similar trends that women are disproportionately disadvantaged.

This is also why UN Women is prioritising women’s economic empowerment for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8; and for the Commission on the Status of Women Sixty-First Session (CSW61) on March 13 to 26, 2017.

This year’s theme, ‘Women in the Changing World of Work’ gives us an opportunity to critically reflect on what has been done to economically empower women, and also work on how to address challenges women encounter.

One of the encouraging observations we can make is that through its national policy frameworks and development strategies, the Government of Tanzania is increasing its focus on women’s economic empowerment.

For example, through sectoral policies and strategies, such as the Small and Medium Enterprise Policy, there is a concerted effort to create an enabling environment for women to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.

This is also reflected in the national theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, which is ‘Industrialise Tanzania: Women are the Foundation of Economic Change’.

What does UN Women do to empower women economically in Tanzania?

In collaboration with the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO), the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce (TWCC), UN Women has been working since 2012 with women traders and merchants in Cross Border Trade.

This initiative aims to help women increase knowledge and understanding of the market opportunities, provide trainings on business formalisation and entrepreneurship skills and ensure adequate awareness of processes and regulations in conducting businesses and trade in a competitive market environment.

More than 5,000 women benefited from skills’ development initiatives which include trainings on obtaining legal permits, business formalisation, cross-border trade, packaging, marketing and managing finances across the nation and several more trainings are forthcoming.

This initiative has now been integrated in the Government’s strategy under the leadership of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

There are now 11 Cross Border Trade Platforms across the country that offer services and trainings to all women who wish to trade across the borders.

Additionally, UN Women also works on women’s leadership and political empowerment; prevention and access to essential services to end violence against women; and transformative financing for gender equality.

In the context of the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals on leaving no one behind, UN Women’s interventions focus on the most vulnerable groups including rural women, women with albinism, women with disabilities, HIV positive women and refugees in Tanzania.

What advice do you give to women to be pro-active?

Before we ask women and young girls to be more pro-active, we have to address social and cultural norms and sometimes discriminatory laws and practices that prevent them from seeking gainful employment.

Even when women and girls have the same access to resources and opportunities, stereo types and gender norms prevent them from challenging the status quo.

To counter this, promotion of successful women as role models is necessary, so that young women and girls are inspired and encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

Only when families and communities actively promote women and young girls to participate on equal terms as men and boys; whether it is in the school, businesses or politics only then will we be able to economically empower all women and girls.

By providing women and girls consistent support to explore new horizons, they will be able to fully reach their economic, social and political potential.

This is where we need to engage more men and boys to join the conversation on gender equality, and convince them to be agents of change.

Studies have repeatedly proved that when women are economically empowered, the whole family benefits.

Families benefit when women have greater economic status within the household. When women have more influence over economic decisions, their families allocate more income to food, health, education, and children.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.

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