While gender equality is improving in certain aspects of society, women living in rural communities face greater challenges in accessing the same rights and opportunities as their male counterparts.
In Tanzania, which has an agriculture-based economy, women play a major role in farming and food production, meaning they contribute massively to their country’s development. However, with limited access and control over productive resources – including education and training, land and decision-making powers – women do not gain financially from these businesses despite their high contribution (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations).
Raleigh Tanzania’s ICS Livelihoods programme is helping bridge the gap between men and women in rural areas through developing the business skills and improving the confidence and independence of young people living in these communities.
The project will see aspiring entrepreneurs complete a 10-week entrepreneurship course where they will refine and assess the viability of their business models. Up to 10 new businesses will receive funding from Raleigh to help start or grow their enterprise. All graduates, however, are supported to access alternative local forms of capital, such as government loans and support from village community banks (VICOBAs). Raleigh volunteers, alongside a network of mentors, will support entrepreneurs to launch their businesses and build buy-in from the local community.
At the start of a current ICS Livelihoods project that’s currently taking place in Nyali, Kilosa, only 20 per cent of entrepreneurs signed up to the business course were women. Through various tactics involving the community, the volunteer team was able to get this figure up to 50 per cent, meeting Raleigh Tanzania’s female participation target.
According to the UN, supporting gender-equitable decent employment in rural Tanzania is key for driving sustainable development of the rural economy and the agricultural sector as a whole. Therefore, ensuring at least half of the participants are female is vital for achieving sustainable results.
To encourage equal involvement, the ICS volunteers assigned a local female ambassador, who raised awareness of the programme and encouraged her peers to sign up. Tausi Hasani, who is the mother of a local tailor, said she wanted her friends to gain skills that would allow them to look after their families.
‘Women should not be left behind – there should always be equal opportunities for men and women in business, and this programme helps to do that,’ she said.
Tausi added that involving women will help the community to grow. ‘Women care and nurture the community, which will help Nyali develop hugely and bring people who live here together.’
Childcare is being made available during the sessions, meaning that women will not need to skip parts of the course to look after their children. Babies have also been made welcome in the classroom, so that women with offspring that are too young to be left with a carer can still attend.
An Action Day was held on 13th October, to raise awareness of the entrepreneurship programme and promote female participation. A kids corner allowed women to attend the action day without worry, and a sign-up table was decorated with posters outlining the lives of famous Tanzanian businesswomen to provide inspiration.
Agnes Jeremia, a local cook who wants to set up a catering business, hopes that developing her business knowledge will help give her more confidence: ‘I want to gain more skills and knowledge of business, so that I can build my confidence and be more independent,’ she said. ‘I think this will help improve things for the next generation of women.’
Going forwards, the volunteer team will be monitoring female attendance, and will be flexible in the ways they can support them.
Tausi will continue to help the team retain women. ‘I want to be an ambassador for the young women who miss lessons. Attending lessons will help us gain knowledge on entrepreneurship but also how to receive other loans from different institutions,’ she said.
Before the end of the programme, the volunteer team will also work with the community to set up a women’s group, which will provide a network for women to support one another personally and professionally, and also voice the needs and concerns of females in the community.
Written by Amy Iveson, Holly Barlow and Jessica Rowbury