20 December 2012

Tanzania: Rural Women On Path to Economic Liberation

ONE of core gender pedagogy stated across countries and institutions is income gap between women and men. Much of this rhetoric, only little has been achieved with the world subjecting women to subsistence economy while men engage in income-based works.

The World Bank in 2008 revealed that women's participation in paid work globally rose slightly, to about 52 percent, with more significant rises in Latin America. But, ironically, some women in rural areas have taken the burden of not only integrating themselves into the economic pool but also spare no efforts to see the same to their fellow women.

This rightly applies to Nassra Salim Mohammed, who lives in Kiuyu Minungwini, Wete Pemba coordinating and training women in her shehia and its vicinity. She is 42 years old but looks younger probably because of her ever smiling and peace of mind as she wishes only the best for her colleagues and herself.

Nassra's main occupation, together with 10 colleagues, is weaving traditional handbags they sell for a living, surpassing the patriarchy ideology that women were only meant to work inside their homes and a little beyond. "These days, we have secured a market stall in Chake Chake where we sell our handbags at a range of 15,000/- to 18,000/- thanks to the United Nations Women (UN Women) which came to our rescue on the side of quality improvement," she said.

She said during the first training session, they were taught how to improve their handbags by making zippers and long handles while a recent training provided multiple designs matched with different colors, leathers and cloth materials such as kitenge. She added that while the first training gave them a benefit of 45,000/- per week when they sold their goods in Chake Chake, the recent training will maximize their profits and the quest for new markets will be patiently launched.

Aisha Juma Ali is a member of Nassra's group and expressed her heartfelt gratitude to Nassra for her commitment and sacrifice to the group and the entire shehia on women issues. "I must say that if it was not for Nassra none of the groups would have existed in our shehia much less their integration into the economic sector which was previously considered as categorically a man's work", she said.

She said that through her social mobilization, groups were formed and engaged in diverse activities such as soap making, agriculture, handcraft and poultry keeping. Indeed it is an improvement in a place like Pemba north region where poverty is prevalent with over 65 percent of its people living below the poverty datum line according to both 2004/2005 and 2009/2010 House Budget Surveys of which the latter clearly indicated that women are double disadvantaged.

Margret Anthony from Kikwajuni, Unguja urban, who is popular in traditional handbags making, was a mentor in Wete training sessions. She said Nassra was a woman of compassion working around the clock to ensure others have understood the knowledge rendered.

"My work has been really lessened having in place people like Nassra who were already good in the profession and eager to see that others catch up with the training," she added. She said that she was excited that members were enthusiastic about the training and she would not hesitate to transfer to Pemba some of her work especially when her office is over booked.

The path to gender equity is far from being realised but it is only prudent to learn from the best practice of which women and some institutions have penetrated into the inner cell of the problem and excelled in transforming the society in terms of gender relations and also national economy at its broad sense.

Also, it has to be remembered that it is bad economics; under-investing in girls and women puts brakes on poverty reduction and limits economic and social development.

Likewise, it is prudent to inculcate a culture of appreciating and awarding the work of these poor women like Nassra who spend their precious time helping others to straighten up things after all it is the government and well-wishers' interest to reduce gender income gaps and poverty as a whole. While officials at the higher level are paid millions of shillings per month, only 50,000/- would make these women more than happy and results of their works could be vividly doubled.

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