All women should have access to equal opportunity and the ability to exercise their rights, such as access to quality education, productive work, land ownership, and making informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health. These are central components to gender equality and giving women the ability to live in the kind of safe environment they deserve. Women need to be free to make their own informed choices and have the same access to education, resources, and opportunities as their male peers. Empowered women in Tanzania continue to work towards enabling the next generation to have healthy and productive families and communities. But there is still a long way to go. The Afrobarometer Dispatch reported in 2017 that even though around 75% of Tanzanians feel the government is doing fairly well at promoting gender equality, there are still several major barriers for women in Tanzania to overcome.
These barriers are social norms that make it much harder for a woman in Tanzania to have the same freedoms, education, resources, and opportunities as men.
- Women lack time. Women spend more time on household chores than men. Not only are they the primary caregivers for children and in charge of running the household, they are also responsible for collecting water and firewood. Approximately 78% of women spend time collecting water daily, compared to only 33% of men. These tasks are not only unpaid, but are tiring, strenuous, and time-consuming, which leaves less time and fewer opportunities for women to have paid work to help make their family’s life better.
- Girls are less educated, resulting in fewer opportunities in the workforce. Even though primary level schools in Tanzania have achieved gender equality, and 80% of children attend school, many girls fall behind when they enter secondary level education (largely due to their menstrual cycle or early pregnancy). This results in women entering the workforce with less opportunity and lower levels of pay.
- Women lack freedom when it comes to reproductive health. With high early marriage and teenage pregnancy rates in Tanzania, education and employment opportunities are often taken away from women. Pregnant girls are typically kicked out of school and become the primary caregivers in their homes. Access to information about birth control is often attacked by those in power, thus reducing a woman’s ability to choose how many children she wants to have and when, where, and with whom she wants to build a family.
- Access to owning property, assets, and financial services is difficult to achieve. Because women have less education and fewer opportunities than their male peers, they often have smaller plots of land, own less livestock, and earn less income. It is also more likely that their land is for subsistence farming rather than making a profit. Most financial providers do not consider women a large target group, so they have less access to financial services. Most women have to start a business with their own savings because interest rates are too high for them.
Moving Forward towards Gender Equality
Despite the challenges women in Tanzania face, government improvements have been implemented, so more women can thrive and live a productive life that includes recreation and rest. If tasks, such as water and firewood collection and household chores, were shared with their male peers, or the time spent on chores was reduced with technology, huge amounts of time could be freed up for women to pursue employment and paid work. In fact, one study calculated that more than half a million jobs could be generated for women from reducing water collection time, about 225,000 from reducing fuel collection, and around 4 million from reducing time spent on food preparation.
While gender equality for women is something most Tanzanians support, there is still long way to go. Even though some progress has been made when it comes to removing the barriers women face, Tanzanian females still do not have equal rights and opportunities. MSG is committed to working towards changing this through our programs, so women have bright futures as leaders and change-makers. Our staff has always been over 75% women, and we are committed to helping other women and girls break the barriers they face when it comes to rights, opportunities, finances, owning property, and earning an income. Our programs specifically focus on menstrual hygiene health and women’s empowerment – factors that are changing the game for women in the areas where we work. We hope to continue to expand our work to reach more women and prevent these barriers from keeping them from reaching their full potential.
By empowering women we will also empower families!
(1): Afrobarometer is a non-partisan, pan-African research institution conducting public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, the economy, and society in 30+ countries repeated on a regular cycle. They are the world’s leading source of high-quality data on what Africans are thinking. See https://afrobarometer.org/ for more information.