24 March 2019

Tanzania: Why It's True Where There Is Woman, There Is Development

opinion

"Where there is a woman, there is development," was one of the quotes during the 8th CSR forum held on March 19, 2019 in Dar es Salaam. It was made by Racheal Chagonja of HakiRasilimali, in one of the panel discussions, titled: "Maximizing participation of women in private sector value chains."

One can say that Racheal's statement was sweeping, biased and general. But come to think of it, she was very right. At the heart of human development, we must have a man and a woman. If we are to have broad-based economic development, it must involve both women and men equally. Else, it will be unequal/uneven development, biased, and in the long run, it can be detrimental. The late Kenyan politician, JM Kariuki, used to say "we do not want a Kenya of ten millionaires and ten million beggars."

In the world of geography, uneven development means some people have a high quality of life, while others are very low. I am talking of extreme differences between the rich and the poor.

Imagine of someone in Dar es Salaam living in an air conditioned apartment and an old man or woman in a falling grass thatched house! While you can buy bottled water, someone else can only afford contaminated water from a borehole next to a sewer line! It is really nauseating. Back to the forum, it was noted that "only 8 per cent of CEOs in Tanzania are women." This is very disheartening, as it means women in top management positions in Tanzania corporate world are VERY few.

The million-dollar question is why? For the last 20 years, girls have been doing well at the university although they are few compared to male students.

A last year story in The Citizen, March 22, 2018, had this headline "TZ's universities have twice as many male as female students," which screams a thousand words, for those who care about gender equity and equality.

Despite the not so good ratio of male-female students at the university, having only 8 per cent of women CEOs, I think it's outrageous! I wish the percentage had been something like 40 per cent, but ideally, it should be 50 per cent! The current situation, speaks of crisis that should not be ignored by policymakers.

The 8 per cent malaise we can also look at it from the angle that, we have a few tops businesswomen. When we talk of billionaires in Tanzania we hear of Mo Dewji, Reginald Mengi, Haroon Zakaria, Salim Bakhresa and so on, but the list does not include any woman, so far.

A tweet by @CanadaTanzania during the forum noted that "women's economic equality is good for business!" This is very true, and to reach there, it calls for concerted efforts that will ensure we are well represented in the business value chain. Take for example in the agriculture sector, at the lowest level, women, especially in smallholder farms, do the donkey jobs.

Diverse research reports indicate that women play big roles in crop production and post-harvest processing. Mostly, the roles are not formal and usually go unrecognized. When we go to the higher levels, markets and processing/industries, men take over. If we want meaningful economic changes, we should start closing the gaps between men and women in agri-business.

A report by International Finance Corporation (IFC) titled, "Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains" notes that women play "limited roles that keep them from gaining the most profitable portions of the agriculture value chain". It also notes that "across the entirety of the value chain, women face limited access to information, hired labor, technology, assets, and networks".

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