“As TAMWA we pioneered the idea to media houses that issues affecting the lives of women and children’s rights do not need to be treated as exclusives but should appear in different media to have an impact in society and contribute to national development,” says TAMWA executive director Ananilea Nkya.
She notes that the implementers were the media who have brought positive change to society by realising that they have a role to play in national development and cites the TAMWA news releases which are published in different media.
“Today the media is giving women a voice in various ways, we see it condemning GBV acts such as female genital mutilation, women battery, school pregnancy, child marriage, rape etc unlike in the past where such ill acts GBV was seen as part of culture” says Nkya, adding that “the media is playing their role as change agents very effectively.”
The Secretary General of the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) who is also an Editor of Mwananchi newspaper, Neville Meena, agrees that the media has a good relationship with TAMWA.
“TAMWA supplies media houses with good stories and these are mostly in areas our journalists cannot reach. The organisation also from time to time trains journalists and editors how to report various issues,” says Meena.
The editor adds that “TAMWA organises journalistic surveys which provide journalists opportunity to go up country to report issues affecting rural communities”, he says, adding “very few media organisations engage media strategically the way TAMWA does”.
Indeed, TAMWA media strategies have been so rewarding especially in stimulating public debate and action on issues that impact negatively on the lives of women and the girl child.
For instance, in 2009 and 2010 TAMWA media advocacy work on the girl child right to education provoked a heated public debate as a result of powerful TV and radio spot message- Sidanganyiki (I cannot be cheated) which was crafted after a thorough media survey on factors that contributes to school pregnancy.
The electronic media spot message was targeted to empower the girl child to say no to temptations which contribute to school dropout due to pregnancy and became a catch word nationwide.
Interestingly the spot was also appreciated by media and stakeholders at different levels countrywide.
“As a parent, guardian and women’s rights activist, I find myself humbled to congratulate you for your creative, realistic, relevant and timely advert titled SIDANGANYIKI on ITV which I believe has to some extent lessened the burden to most parents, guardians and well wishers on endless warning to young daughters/girls on the watch out against the potential selfish and destructive men surrounding them. Bravo TAMWA”, said Dr Judith Odunga, Executive Director of Women and Law in development in Africa (WiLDAF) in a congratulatory message to TAMWA in 2009.
The work of this powerful media women association has awakened public leaders, communities and individuals; women and men, young and old, from the rural and urban areas understand that girls also have the right to education.
“The impact of spot is great” says Nkya, one of the courageous civil society women leaders in Tanzania whose brave work was recognised officially by the US Embassy in Tanzania as 'Woman of Courage 2010'.
She says the advocacy message has empowered particularly school girls from pastoralist communities to come out and report incidences of forced marriage.
Likewise, the media advocacy campaigns which TAMWA championed between 2003 to 2005 made a history in the lives of girls in Zanzibar and has contributed heavily to the success of efforts pioneered by individual activists and organisations in repealing the Zanzibar Spinsters Law of 1985 which would sentence a girl who became pregnant out of the wedlock to two years imprisonment.
The repeal of the law opened doors for the enactment of a new law Spinster and Single Parent Children Protection Act 2005 which among other things allows school girls who become pregnant to continue with the school after delivery.
“A girl who had dropped out of school while in form two went back to school, she completed and passed Form Six last year 2010”, says Nkya adding that many more girls who would have been disadvantaged with the previous law have also benefitted with the new law.
The organisation conducts journalistic surveys and policy analysis, organises collective mass actions through coalitions and networks and provides quality training in media advocacy.
Nkya says before the local government elections, TAMWA realised that the women leadership at the local level was very low. “We pioneered media advocacy to sensitise and mobilise women to vie for leadership positions and ensured this became a reality by working with different stake holders.” She says
The organisation’s 2009 Annual Report shows that 5,000 posters were distributed in the regions to mobilize political parties to nominate 50% women contestants for local government leadership position.
The campaign added value as it doubled the number of women village and Mitaa chairpersons from less than 200 out of 10,371 in 2004 to 493 in 2009. At vitongonji (sub-village) level the number of women increased nearly four times, that is from less than 500 in 2004 to 1,903 in 2009,” noted the TAMWA Annual report.
Likewise, TAMWA strategic media advocacy and public sensitizations on the need for women to contest in elective positions increased the number of women in Parliament from 22 percent in 2000 to 36 percent to date.
The social transformation organisation in partnership with Care Tanzania between 2008 and 2011 implemented a unique social economic justice initiative -Women Empowerment project in Zanzibar (WEZA).
“WEZA changed economic and social lives of over 7,842 rural poor women from Pemba North and South Unguja regions in Zanzibar”, says Mzuri Issa, TAMWA Coordinator in Zanzibar
In terms of building the capacity of its members, TAMWA is perhaps the only media organisation in Tanzania which has designed and implemented a policy to support its members to pursue higher education. It launched a scholarship fund in 2005 which has enabled 16 media women journalists attain Bachelor and Master Degree from the local Universities.
“Thanks to TAMWA scholarship fund, I have a university degree and can now write more critical and analytical stories. I am a correspondent of Dutch Welles and even attended an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa something impossible for me to achieve before having a degree,” says Flora Nzema TAMWA members.
In addition TAMWA pioneered Media Women participation in Fk Exchange programme which has seen 24 young women members of the association living and working in foreign countries in Africa and Europe for one year.
“The exchange programme provided me with experience. I was just a junior reporter but today I run my own office and conduct my duties confidently,” says Bestina Magutu, Public Information Officer at the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority, the first woman to hold the position.
TAMWA is also one of the very few non-governmental organisations which have strived to acquire its permanent offices mostly from the resources contributed by the members themselves and fundraising locally.
No one expects an organisation challenging cultural and policy frameworks to survive without any challenge.
“At times our advocacy work is misunderstood by people who are narrow-minded and selfish” says Ananilea Nkya who has led TAMWA for the last 11 years and her term of services comes to an end this year.
But what makes TAMWA perform and achieve so much? The organisation has a smart governance structure in place which enables stakeholders do their work and ensures checks and balances.
The Annual General Meeting is the supreme organ of the organisation and appoints the Governing Board which oversees the performance of a slim Secretariat with a main task of facilitating key actors to implement activities.
A million things can be said about the success of TAMWA in the past 11 years but one thing is for sure, this organisation has touched the lives of many citizens particularly women and children and indeed has a very bright future to achieve greater things in the years to come.
* Shipeka Chibanda is a Zambian journalist attached to the Tanzania Media women’s Association (TAMWA) under the Fredskorpset (Fk) exchange programme involving media women associations from Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication in Nepal (IJMC).