Women’s Expectations from the next Government

Women’s Expectations from the next Government

Women want the complete eradication of Poverty in Tanzania!

  • As a nation, we need to analyze poverty in the context of economic; and psychosocial; and physical well being.
  • Poverty is not only the absence or lack of money/ finances.
  • Poverty is a lack of Vision which blinds us from seeing the resources and opportunities we have as a nation.
  • Poverty is being denied Basic Rights….
  • Poverty is domestic violence which impacts on productivity, health, household incomes.
  • Poverty is not having safe and clean water and sanitation.
  • Poverty is not being able to make informed choices, because there are no choices to choose from.
  • Poverty is lack of medical facilities.
  • Poverty is seeing a handful of people living the good life, la vie en rose/the good life, while the majority scrounge for a living.
  • Poverty is being deprived shelter and sustenance.
  • Poverty is living in fear like the people with albinism.
  • Poverty is seeing your child being bullied in school by children of rich people and you lack the power to intervene.
  • Poverty is that space, where no Tanzanian should be because we have the gifts from God of land, natural resources, and people.
    From the next government, we want People Responsive Policies and a National Commitment to live la vie en rose!

Poverty could be defined as lack of resources like social; economic; health; water and sanitation; food; education; and peace; which are needed for a community to be seen to be without poverty.

Poverty is recognized to be multi-dimensional in its causes and manifestations, “including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure a sustainable livelihood; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increasing morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion…lack of participation in decision-making and civil, social and cultural life”.(Source: Social Dialogue on Poverty Reduction; Evan Carmichael/ILO, 2007).

More importantly, many of the other aspects of poverty for example health; education; environment; climate change; and political involvement of all citizens is grouped among the multi faceted implications of poverty.

  • The number of poor people is growing in Tanzania, women especially are getting poorer while structures like Loan Schemes; training on financial management; marketing; modern skills in agricultural production; poor infrastructure; Gender Based Violence; HIV/AIDS; inadequate health facilities; and women’s multiple burdens are becoming more pronounced.
  • Lack of support to the aged; lack of adequate social welfare services; and lack of pro-poor people Legislation and Policies, have served to entrench women in the vicious circle of having to scrounge in order to survive.

 

  • National Policies like the Social Welfare Policy; the Reproductive Health and Rights Policy; the Gender Policy are not adequately inclusive of the Rights and Security of women in the peripheries of society.
  • There is tremendous discrimination against women in the marginalized groups like women in the informal sector because of their low literacy levels which serves to infringe on their self esteem and dignity.

 

  • Women who are on the peripheries of the economic development process lack skills; resources; and a well articulated agenda to campaign for Socio-Economic Justice and for Food and Health Security.

 

  • A handful of Civil Society Organizations have started discussions on Economic Justice   which need to be amplified then concrete action has to be taken in order to redress the balance of resource allocation so that marginalized women (and men) are given access to their share of the resources of the country.

In order for social; economic; health; food security; water and sanitation; environment; climate change; and psychosocial transformation to take place, we need a committed leadership and good governance. Such a leadership should mobilize citizens, and particularly the poor, marginalized citizens who tend to be women and the youth, to harness their collective power in order to transform society through a collective and participatory movement.

This can be done if there is commitment from the leadership, and a political will from the populace. The populace just needs good governance and a leadership which cares.

The main emphasis is to enhance the capacities of the various groups in society from the youth to elderly people who all have a role to play in order to facilitate critical reflection and organized actions within their communities; and to facilitate linkages among actors at different levels to further the priority agendas, especially that of Economic Justice, to bring lasting change in the hopes; dreams; aspirations; and lives of all Tanzanians.

There is need to conduct research and base line surveys in order to find out what are the most common challenges faced by a majority of Tanzanians, which deters them from fulfilling their hopes; dreams; aspirations; and agendas. Good practice around which grassroots Tanzanians are organizing and which issues they prioritized in practice could be the starting point. The most significant issue is that of Economic Justice.

In both rural and urban areas, and regardless of what the initial goal was of a given community, social scientists have discovered that there could be no advancement to overcome specific problems without the reduction and finally, the eradication of poverty.

The dire state of the micro and macro economics in Tanzania is felt both personally and publicly by the majority of Tanzanians. The economic structures of Tanzania which are supported by patriarchy need to be addressed in order to attain a balance in Economic Justice, and in Gender Justice.

An important starting point is to understand the prevailing social; economic; political; and cultural; situation in our country, but more importantly, to appreciate the urgent need of strengthening our collective organizing strategies and clarity of our agenda as a nation, in order to effectively address the multifaceted and complex interplay between patriarchy, neo liberalism and other exclusionist social relations.

It calls for uncovering the horizontal and vertical between policies and outcomes; groups and communities; and improving national/local resource management in order to curb maternal mortality; unsustainable livelihood; Inadequate, inaccessible and poor quality water; Land grabbing; and Gender Based Violence among a list of priorities which need to be addressed by the next government which is expected to take office next week, October, 2015.

Remedial Actions needed to address Poverty in order to attain Economic Justice

 

  • Identify target audiences and define strategies for intervention and potential advocates.
  • Recommend types of materials required for different advocacy audiences.
  • Recommend measures for government to scale up National Response towards Poverty Reduction as a PRIORITY in the country because poverty affects all aspects of our lives including our Health; Productivity; Quality of Life; Educational Prospects and Life Expectancy.
  • Recommend mechanisms to enable Line Ministries like the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Trade and Industries; the Ministry of Roads and Transportation; the Ministry of Policy in the Prime Ministers’ Office and the Law Reform Commission to include amendments to five legislations which impact on further entrenchment of marginalized women in the poverty quagmire. These are:
  • The Trade Liberalization Act
  • The Mining Act
  • The Agricultural and Livestock Act
  • The Banking Act
  • The Industries Act

Together with initiating conversations on the above legislations which impact on marginalized women with dire effect, there is need to aggressively start discussions and to hold consultative meetings with various stakeholders in order to influence them to start a Strong Lobby for the formulation of a National Loans Policy which would be the Regulatory Mechanism on Loans and Credit and Borrowing which would in turn facilitate women-friendly structures in lieu of accessing loans which should be gender progressive; soft and comprehensible to women in the contractual consensus between the lending agency and the borrower.

This means there is need to have uniformity in the interest rates, or even affirmative action in relation to women who seek loans without having to resort to mortgaging their assets which invariably get seized by the lending agencies because the Loan Terms and the MOU are too stringent.

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the structures put up to fight Human Rights violation, structures which do NOT address the needs of marginalized women both in urban settings and in rural communities.
  • Recommend best approaches to get the media to scale up advocacy on Poverty Eradication as a National Priority. We should note that poverty is always accompanied by low literacy levels; disease; break up of family structures; domestic violence; women’s acquiesce to sexual harassment in order to get special favors or out of fear of losing jobs or out of desperation that they may be forced to leave their BANDAS where they do small scale trade; loss of self esteem; loss of political will; loss of dignity and often, loss of life!
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of strategies currently being used and recommend alternative approach where required.

Identify strategies to help marginalized women cope with violence and abuse, and train them on legal literacy and assertiveness skills.

  • Recommend structures for introducing harsh penalties to law enforcers who abuse their positions.
  • Lobby for provision of training for marginalized women on trade; marketing; saving schemes; and skills when they are confronted with sexual harassment; or disregard from officials in lending agencies.
  • Intensify ways of dealing with marginalization for women food vendors and vegetable trades; stigma and discrimination against PLHIV women; discrimination against women with physical disabilities; GBV; albino killing (it is albino women and girl children who are at the higher risk of getting mutilated/ killed); and exit points for women in the sex industry so that sex workers would have the skills and the safety net to get support when they decide to exit from sex work.
  • Intensify Lobby and Advocacy through consultative meetings with Line Ministries to get Gender Responsive budgeting.

 

Strategic Litigation: Alliances between government and legal based CSOs which should support strategic litigation in the area of Economic Justice to test the application of the Constitutional Rights accorded to women, as well as to challenge the Policies which are blatantly discriminatory to women. Organizations such as LHRC; HAKIARDHI; TAWLA; WLAC that have already successfully challenged discriminatory laws should be encouraged to take on Economic Justice Violation cases.

 

Additional to strategic litigation, Legal and Human Rights organizations should be encouraged to bring cases like the women food vendors who fought for their bandas and got beaten in the process and continue to live in fear that their bandas may get razed to the ground as a Human Rights violations to the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance to test if it does have teeth or is just a toothless bulldog!

This would help show case whether institutions that are established to protect Human Rights in Tanzania are actually accessible to ALL Tanzanian citizens regardless of their station in life.

 

Documentation of Human Rights Violations Against Marginalized Women: There is need to support consistent documentation of the Rights violations that women on the periphery of the economic circle face. This can be done directly by building the capacity of marginalized women led organizations to do their own documenting or to do it in collaboration with the Tanzania Gender Networking Program TGNP, which is already in the process of training and documenting Human Rights violations against women.

Such documentation will provide the information needed for Policy and Law reform and for prosecution of justice and rights violations. Apart from supporting documentation of rights violations against marginalized women, more action research is needed to build the body of knowledge about rights issues and concerns of marginalized women since they are a diverse group- from food vendors to small scale farmers to elderly women picking shells on the beach to sell to chicken feed manufacturers to dress makers. Such research will help refine interventions for marginalized women.

 

Support to marginalized Women: There is need to support the growth of women on the peripheries of the economic circle through providing core financial; institutional; and other capacity building support, such as training in leadership; advocacy; and Human Rights to become strong and productive people.

This will help propel their voice and issues in Policy and Decision Making Spaces. Because the community based movement in Tanzania is still young, such organizations need to be supported to craft new and innovative ways to reach out to and be relevant to a broad spectrum of marginalized women in order to define a Rights Agenda and to define a strategic direction for the Agenda for Economic Justice.

There should be support to enable cross learning, mentorship and guidance between and among community based groups and mainstream women’s rights groups. As much as possible, forums that allow for interface, interaction and movement building between and across the two movements should be enhanced.

Working with Law Enforcement Officers: It is critical to train law enforcement officers in Human Rights especially as they relate to marginalized groups such as food vendors; displaced women farmers; or women squatting in building sites while selling food because that is where the market for their food is situated.

Support can also go towards developing Zero Tolerance Policies against violence. A fair and supportive system through which women in vulnerable situations like women with albinism; women who collect water or firewood at night which they sell; violence against elderly women and depriving them of shelter and sustenance; violence and stigma against PLHIV women; is imperative that structures where women can report crimes against them should be established which ought to be part of law enforcement and judicial procedure.

Several police stations in Dar es Salaam have a Gender Desk which is supposed to be responsible for receiving and investigating complaints of a sexual and gender based nature. Such mechanisms need to be strengthened and multiplied right down to community level to ensure that they respond to the Rights violation of marginalized women.

Economic Empowerment Alternatives: While the efforts of Micro Finance (MFIs) are appreciated in as far as they have endeavored to provide small loans to women, they need to diversify the lending options and orient them towards those that are income generating and sustainable from the point of view of the poor women who lack collaterals to be eligible for loans.

This will entail working with women on the peripheries of the economic circle, business enterprise groups and even women’s entrepreneurs groups to develop vocational skill models that work. Additionally, collaboration should be built between women and Micro Finance Institutions to enable them develop packages that are oriented towards the needs of Marginalized Women and which they can take advantage of.

There is need to put up legal structures to make it mandatory for Micro Finance Institutions to provide such women with basic financial literacy. This should be additional to having uniformity in the loan conditionality.

Legal Literacy; Economic Literacy and Human Rights Education: Throughout the political campaigns for the 2015 General Elections, women have stated that they urgently need Legal Literacy as well as Human Rights awareness. While there are a number of legal aid service providers in Tanzania, they are under capacitated and underfunded. Organizations doing paralegal training should be encouraged to develop and conduct a tailor made training of paralegals from among Marginalized Women.

The organizations that conduct legal awareness and sensitization should ensure that they reach out to such women in order to help build their Legal Literacy. This would add knowledge to the lobby and advocacy initiatives of women in the peripheries of the economic circle who are attempting to get into sustainable economic livelihoods which would make them part of the decision making process. This would ensure they are part of the mainstream economic circle as well as give them the skills to negotiate for a space in markets for their produce.

Access to Health Care: There is urgent need to increase and improve the health care services available to Marginalized Women. Among the critical first steps is to conduct Human Rights training for health personnel so they are able to provide a service that is women friendly and women sensitive and responsive.

. There is need to begin conversations about the provision of universal health insurance. It is imperative that Marginalized Women and other Health and Rights advocacy groups ensure that they are part and parcel of shaping the debate; direction; and content; of such a scheme to ensure that Marginalized Women are included.

Creating Safe Spaces and defending the Defenders: Because of the multiple burdens which women endure almost on a daily basis, many of them carry deep emotional as well as physical wounds. Many of them do not have the time to rest and to take care of and rebuild their stamina.

Many of the women at the front line of the marginalized women sector suffer the pressures that come from being the face of the movement and the challenges that come with trying to mobilize from the ground to go up.

Media portrayals of women as dependent; weaklings; only add insult to injury. There is need for women for women in the periphery of the economic circle that it fine, it is OK, to take time off to rebuild their reserves of health and strength.

Below are some of the points which give an overview of the needs which have been identified in the National Poverty Monitoring Master Plan:

  • To reduce poverty, a wide-range of actors must make informed choices.

This has not been implemented with efficacy, a fact noted during the political campaigns for the 2015 General Elections.

  • To do this they need information about poverty; how it is changing; and what causes these changes. The Government, as regulator and facilitator, needs information for informed policy and decision-making on poverty-related matters.

The government has to reach out to the communities instead of waiting for information to be sent to them. People in marginalized communities especially those in rural communities, do not have access to structures through which they can make the challenges they face become known to decision makers. Also, they have not been trained to know what ‘informed choice’ is, let alone having the skills or resources to make informed choices.

  • Local authorities, civil society, and politicians also need information to set priorities and to guide implementation of poverty reduction efforts. The people need information to assess how effective government is in reducing poverty and to take action accordingly.
  • The flow of information is one sided with decision makers giving sweeping statements on reform without conducting proper research and needs assessment of what people really need!
    • Not all information required for pro-poor policy and decision making can be obtained through measuring pre-determined indicators. Where we have less knowledge about an issue, such as vulnerability, it is difficult to choose the most pertinent indicator. In this case, explorative research is needed rather than the measurement of an indicator. The measurement of indicators alone also does not make it possible to determine the causes of any observed changes in poverty.

    This indeed true and needs to be pursued further by reminding the government what the statement above says!

    Challenging Governance

    One explanation for the widening scope of poverty among communities is the flux of changes due to rapid developments in technology which makes traditional reliance on experience as a source of knowledge inadequate and often irrelevant. Poor people are unable to respond effectively to the demands of rapid and radical changes. (Source: Beijing Platform of Action on Economic Justice).

    It is possible to attack poverty by generating new knowledge as a basis of new experience, by more information and training, by better use of available resources and by organized self help in autonomous institutions at the local level and by improved socio economic political administrative conditions. It is necessary to bring new knowledge from the outside by external promoters, technicians or development entrepreneurs i.e. people who are conversant with the challenges of the new times and who are able and willing to share their knowledge with the local poor, who for their part depend on new approaches, new technologies and new skills to break the vicious circle of poverty in which they are caught. What are needed are methods of anticipation of the future development “Learning from the Future“. (Source: M. K. Sizya/ Moshi Cooperative College)

    This is only possible if the change agents share their knowledge with local people in order to develop new locally adjusted knowledge on how to cope with the problems of production, income generation, social organization and survival in a changing environment.

    Recommendations- Are cooperatives one option which Marginalized Women can develop to get Economic Justice?

    To move in the right direction, the Government should prepare a transparent strategy for rebuilding the co-operative movement involving other interested parties like NGOs and other sympathizers of co-operative enterprise. This will ensure that the Government avoids the tendency to dominate the co-operatives as in the past.

    The heart of the Strategy should be a pro-poor participatory co-operative development education program drawn on the positive lessons of the wide range of participatory approach based pilot projects like MEMCOOP in Kilimanjaro and Arusha Regions.

    This will initiate fundamental change of attitudes and approaches of particularly the government policy. (Source: M. K. Sizya/Moshi Cooperative College).

     

     

“Together We Can Make it Happen”

Leila Sheikh

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