Many studies focus on the historic roles and status of women in specific countries within sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, scholars have begun to focus on the evolution of women's status throughout the history of Africa using less common sources.
The status of women in Africa is varied across nations and regions. For example, Rwanda is the only country in the world where women hold more than half the seats in parliament—51.9 per cent as of July 2019, but Morocco only has one female minister in its cabinet. Significant efforts towards gender equality have been made through the creation of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, which encourage member states to end discrimination and violence against women. With the exception of Morocco and Burundi, all African states have adopted this charter. However, despite these strides towards equality, women still face various issues related to gender inequality such as disproportionate levels of poverty and education, poor health and nutrition, lack of political power, limited workforce participation, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage.
There is no inclusive and sustainable way forward for Africa without women, youth and agriculture.Indeed, agriculture offers Africa, and Tanzania in particular, an opportunity for economic prosperity, food security, poverty eradication, skills transfer and economic empowerment for women and girls.
But all this will come to naught if governments do not do enough to build women’s resilience against climate change. The science has been shown to have the most devastating effect on agriculture. In large parts of Africa, scientists forecast farm output to decline by between 30 and 50 per cent by 2030 due to changing climatic conditions.
Throughout much of the continent, agriculture is threatened by multiple issues, ranging from population increase to urbanisation and industrialisation, to the sub-division of land and degraded resources
Women disproportionately bear much of the brunt given their traditional roles as tillers of the land and their recognition as the backbone of the family unit.
In Tanzania, the state is looking at improving food security and nutrition, as highlighted in a number of current and past economic blueprints, while it has now started to ramp up funding for women in agriculture through ring-fenced facilities.
Moreover, as a short-term measure, the classification of agriculture as an essential service during the ongoing Covid – 19 lockdown has insulated women farmers, especially those in horticulture, against financial losses arising from market shut-downs.
But changes in the agriculture landscape over the decades have already resulted in massive food shortages in successive years, leaving some seven million people in need of food aid in 2020.
What this means is that current and future changes in climate now call for greater astuteness in development planning to minimise risk and bolster food production and security, particularly targeting women.
We feel that African Union and African governments, should, however, take specific steps to build capacity and resilience among women in line with the long-term goals of Agenda 2063 – the AU’s development plan for the next half century.
The AU is already funding women-led projects in the areas of environment and climate change, providing grants of up to $25 000 to African governments or NGOs for projects that can prove an ability to empower women in water management, agriculture and energy.
But we are yet to see deliberate top-down interventions from most African governments, including Tanzania’s, targeting those groups of women facing harsh climate realities due to their continued marginalisation, mainly on account of poor education, lack of access to information and resources.