Isles women empowerment campaign bears fruit

WOMEN empowerment campaigns have been going on across the globe, gaining momentum in recent years in developing countries.

Still only few success stories are being recorded necessitating a call for continued support for women to rid themselves of poverty. In Tanzania, various measures are being taken by different activists to empower women.

The empowerment ensures that women and girls have control over their lives and are able to participate actively in social, political and economic domains.

According to analysts, enabling gender equality and empowering women, which includes the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy, and training on how to make money, are critical to advancing progress and growth in the country.

While programs continue in other countries, a project has ended on the Isles, with admirable achievement. At least three thousand women and girls in Unguja and Pemba are economically transformed, now fully engaging in market driven Income Generating Activities (IGAs); Access market, control productive assets and formalize their enterprises.

The 42 month project which ended in June this year benefited 97 percent of more than six thousand women and girls who were identified and enrolled for the program. The reached women conducted ‘Village Savings and Loans (VSLs) scheme and managed to save more than 900m/-.

The women now involved in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) are grouped into four clusters that is: cosmetic soap manufacturing, vegetables farming, and poultry keeping and handcraft making at the ratio of 1830 in vegetables, 220 in Poultry, 1015 in handicraft and 705 in soap.

Milele Zanzibar Foundation (MZF) for supporting the project implemented by the Tanzania Media Women Association under the project dubbed ‘Women Empowerment in Zanzibar (WEZA II) project.

“We are happy with the empowerment initiatives. We are now better-off economically as we produce vegetables and soap to sell. We support our families particularly essential needs for our children growth,” said Ms Mwatumu Omar one of the beneficiaries.

She said that almost all women and girls reached under the project, their lives have been transformed with big expectation of improving further the businesses they are doing now, for the development of the country.

According to Ms Winifred Yatuwa Mamawi, Coordinator of the project, other achievements are group’s savings have grown gradually and optimistically from 312,749,000/=in 2016 to more than 1.5bn/- this year (2019), an increase of 80 percent.

In 2016 majority of the group were saving 2500/-shillings per week, but ‘today’ the average share value stands at 3,800/-and that best performing groups are in Unguja: -Wema Popote “B” of Bambi, Akiba Haiozi of Ghana village and Hatujali Fitina of Jambiani Kikadini and in Pemba:- Tupate sote from Mavungwa, Tujigomboe from Kinyasini and Tupendane from Kiungoni.

Loan capacity of VSL groups has gradually improved in the past three years. In July to September the women borrowed a total of 69.4m/-; October to December last year, January to March 2019 then April to June 81.9m/-. She said that 69 percent of VSLs women can now contribute and meet their basic needs in their families including feeding their family and paying for their children’s education.

It said that 31 percent of women are overwhelmingly reported to contribute to community needs. About 4,417 equivalents to 82.15 percent are in market driven products, while about 1,023 women have access to productive assets provided by the project and likeminded donors, and 24 groups have been registered at a cooperative level and eight clusters registered at the national/regional level.

Ms Maryam Khatib says that she is among about 461 women who have been trained on value addition as Training of Trainers (TOT) such as soap making, hand crafts designing, vegetable processing, spiced tea making, Bee Keeping, horticulture agriculture farming and agro processing.

To exchange knowledge and experience 14 cluster meetings were held, represented by 30 cluster business women from Unguja and 30 Pemba to exchange ideas, views and technical know how among themselves, challenges and way forward for their group businesses.

She said that despite the high number engaged in market driven products they face a challenge of poor branding, packaging and labeling; Barcode fee per year of 100,000/-; and payment of 50,000/-to Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), and payment of 14,275/-to the Zanzibar Revenue Board (ZRB) each month, expensive to many women just starting their small business.

That is among the challenges including that the quantity demanded on the market is more that what the business women can supply, and also maintenance of some productive assets like soap machine is a problem due to group ownership, and the empowerment is also required by women in other areas not covered in the project.

It is said that although there has been a lot of women interventions, challenges are still clouded in the women movement as some women still have not been enrolled to any economic activity, and some entrepreneurs produce low quality products with no reliable market and there are no forum where women could meet and address their social economic barriers.

The objectives of the WEZA was to contribute to poverty reduction and improved social justice in Zanzibar along with increasing social, cultural, and political barriers to women’s empowerment progressively targeting about 7,000 marginalized rural poor women in eight districts of Pemba, and Southern and Northern Unguja Zanzibar.

Ms Mamawi said interventions include financial sustainability through VIKOBA and about 280 Village and saving loaning groups, and that for years, women have been marginalized, live in extreme poverty and subjected to Gender Based Violence (GBV) with impunity.

According to past surveys, 56 percent working-age Tanzanians had no access to financial services of any type or are excluded, with this figure rising in rural areas. More specifically, in Northern Pemba (Micheweni), almost 80 percent of the population has no access to financial services.

According to the Household Budget Surveys 2004/2005 and 2009/2010, Micheweni is the poorest district in Zanzibar, and that about 74 percent of the people in Micheweni Districts live below the basic needs poverty line, and 33 percent live below the food poverty line.

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