Women Platforms Strengthen Empowerment Drive
18 August 2023
Power imbalance among men and women in Shinyanga Region are fueled by cultural beliefs and male domination that has been dominating the area since time immemorial. Men/boys are arguably more powerful in different ways and are owners of everything in a home setup as compared to women. This power imbalance, at the family level, especially in decision-making, leadership, economic empowerment, formal education, and so on, unfortunately, fuels violence against women and children.
This social anomaly positions many women and girls in a precarious position of inferiority to the extent that they can't contribute fully to development from family to national levels.
In addressing the challenge, Young Women Leadership (YWL) with support from Women Fund Tanzania (WFT-T) implemented a project dubbed, _“Mwanamke kitovu cha Maendeleo”Italic in two administrative wards of Iselamagazi and Nyamalongo, in Shinyanga District.
The overall goal of the project was to strengthen the capacity of women's groups and other women's movements in addressing power imbalance against women in villages, hence promoting decision-making from the family to the community level.
As part of strategies, Young Women Leadership used the approach of strengthening women's platform to help bring them together, build their capacity and give them a platform to discuss and raise their voices on violence against women and children.
Joyce Bernard, a member, and facilitator of Iselamagazi Ward Women Platform, one of the platforms that benefited from the project, explains how the platform is contributing towards transforming women.
“This platform was established in 2020. Its main activity is to provide education to members and the community in general on sexual violence and economic issues. As members, we used different strategies to raise awareness including our public village and ward meetings, church sessions, vicoba groups and moving house to house.
"Whenever we meet, the major emphasis in our sessions is discussions around gender violence, how to make a living through engaging in income-generating activities, and children's rights in general, including the protection of women and children," Joyce said.
Speaking on the platform's contribution, Joyce said through the knowledge they received from the platform, the situation of child marriages in their area had decreased compared to the time when the platform had not been formed. She added that members of the community now know the existence of the platform; hence they are afraid of being arrested. They know that the platform members are closely monitoring the situation and they report any signs of child marriages to the responsible authorities. She also added that the platform has helped women gain confidence and understand their rights, including the right to speak/contribute. The awareness has enabled women to believe in themselves.
"In our community, it is very difficult for women to speak or air their views in public or in front of men. This is due to oppressive traditional beliefs and practices that exist at family level. But right now, the platform has become a place of exposure for women because when they meet, they exchange ideas, they learn their rights, and gradually they start to gain confidence. As of now, the situation has changed, women boldly stand and talk about various issues including their rights”.Italic
Zawadi Hamis, a member of platform, said that the platform has helped them acquire knowledge and understanding on the importance of engaging in income-generating activities, hence reducing dependence on men, which is also a source of violence.
“Through the platform, we have created income-generating groups (VICOBA) in which we save and lend money to members. When we meet, we also learn about business. This has uplifted many women and right now they are engaging in various activities that help them earn income,” Zawadi explained.
She went on to conclude that the platform has contributed a lot in reducing incidences of violence in their communities, due to increase in awareness provided by platform members, who have become ambassadors against violence in their areas.
Regarding challenges, the platforms need to be further strengthened for them to reach more women. Also, the platforms need financial empowerment because the geography of their wards is large, so moving around them requires resources.