-begun to bring positive results for women and girls as seen in decline of early pregnancies, increased women’s role in decision making at household level contrary to the situation on the past.
This has been possible through Local Rights Programmes (LRP) that are being executed by ActionAid Tanzania in Tandahimba district.
Right now more women and men in Tandahimba are aware of gender based violence and its effects on their children.
Speaking in an interview with this paper, the Community Development Officer (Gender Desk Coordinator) in Tandahimba District, Neema Shungu said the number of girls who dropped out of school has declined because parents are now educated on the importance of education to girls.
Right now parents send their daughters to school and the district has witnessed the largest decline in early marriage and teenage pregnancies, something which was not there before.
We are seeing drastic changes in the number of impregnated schoolgirls that has declined from 54 students in 2018 to 15 students so far, that is equivalent to 0.04 percent of those registered in school.
Through the programme, women in the area were trained on what is gender based violence, the effect it has for them, women’s rights, leadership skills, entrepreneurship skills, how to form women’s rights community-based organisations, and how to track and make follow-up on implemented community projects.
“As a district we are very glad for what we have achieved so far because right now we’re seeing more women demanding their rights in courts. They help their children to stay in a better shape, they can contest in various political posts at village and ward levels and win,” she said.
Also, they are now confident to discuss various issues that influence the rate of violence against women and girls, their rights to education and later on submit it to gender desk officer to take action on it. That is all thanks to ActionAid Tanzania for their support to women and girls in Tandahimba district.
ActionAid Tanzania introduced this programme in Tandahimba that in turn has helped women and girls enjoy their rights to education, fulfill their dreams, and prevent early marriages. That was one of the main barriers to girls’ education in Tandahimba district.
Also women can sit together to discuss development issues relating to women’s development, how to fight early marriage and teenage pregnancies, create awareness on gender based violence against girls and women through different village meetings and festivals.
Apart from that the community is now aware that “Safisha Ghala” (Clean warehouse) is a stupid thing. Before the training, life was very bad for women and girls, as women were not aware on their rights, women were abandoned and left with no resources or anything especially after the cashew-nut harvesting season while girls were forced to stay at home for domestic work or being married without their consent.
ActionAid Tanzania has started engaging with women and girls as well as undertaking advocacy dialogue for raising awareness on children’s education rights, gender- based violence against women and girls. Gender equality situation was very bad, pregnancy cases were very high, students drop out in secondary schools was very high and family separation was also very high,”
“As district authorities we are very glad for what has been done for women because family separation (divorce has declined) because both women and men are aware of the effect of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and education for girls,” she says.
Awareness training was conducted free of charge to the communities by Social Development Department of Tandahimba District Council in collaboration with ActionAid Tanzania.
Highlighting on how Tandahimba district has managed to bring positive changes to the community, she says, they normally use village meetings to create awareness on GBV and other issues relating to gender equality or sometimes they use the District Commissioner’s villages meetings when he visits them to listen the challenges they have and what they need.
“As a district we are very glad because family separation (divorce) has declined because both women and men are aware of the effect of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on a woman’s health and women can demand their rights,” she says.
The awareness was conducted free of charge to the communities by the Social Development Department of Tandahimba District Council in collaboration with ActionAid Tanzania.
The training has opened women’s eyes, change mindset for men as well as prevent traditions and cultural barriers that contribute to violence against girls to access education, increase school enrolment for girls and reduce dropout of school for girls.
For his part ActionAid Tandahimba, Local Rights Programme (LRP) Coordinator, Dino Kamonalo says the training on women rights, leadership skills, governance and accountability has borne fruit for women and other people in Tandahimba district because right now more women are active, they have confidence in
what they need and are participating effectively in development issues.
Apart from that they can challenge for their rights in courts of law and there has been a change in women participation in decision making at household level especially on income and expenditure.
Highlighting on women’s rights, he says they train them to empower them so that they can effective engage in advocating and demanding rights on decision and ownership of household income, polygamy and rampant divorce, early marriages and pregnancy to girls.
Also they want to improve women’s organizational capacity, governance and networking at the grass root level.
“A considerable amount of the time was spent in community mobilization to form women rights community-based organisations and this was followed by intensive institutional strengthening and capacity building of staff,” he says.
These community based institutions took a leading role in fostering development in the fight against violence against women and to complement efforts of ActionAid Tanzania.
These early efforts saw the formation of Tandahimba Women Rights Organization (TAWORO) which propelled sensitization and conscientization.
The employment of Societies Tracking Aids through Rights (STAR) and Children’s Reflection and Empowerment for Social Transformation (CREST) has facilitated in-depth analysis and reflection on the root causes of inequality, exploitation and exclusion that underline rights violations.
Due to the emergence of regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques (REFLECT) mobilized the community and started involving in economic activities. As a result various groups were formed such as goat keeping and poultry groups regardless of their gender.
Through these groups it led to the formation of small savings and credit units such as Village Community Banks (VICOBA) when individual and groups can easily access financial support for their business.
He says so far over 900 women have been directly trained on leadership skills while 16 women from the established Community Development Circles contested and won various political positions at village and ward levels.
Apart from that about 400 women are members of the established Tandahimba Women Rights Organization and over 20,000 women have already benefited through engaging in saving and credit groups, formation of producer groups.
Apart from that ActionAid Tanzania supports women to raise income and raise their recognition level at household level.
Highlighting on governance and accountability, he says so far there is improvement in advocacy work on policy issues including those related to rights to participate in political positions among women.
Participation of women in decision making initiatives especially in attending community meetings has increased and women can openly speak out their views as compared to the past.
Also there is evidence of reduced bureaucracy and decreasing corruption in public offices especially especially in health services, police and in the courts, and there has been an increase in mutual relationships between communities and schools.
So far over 1000 pupils are benefiting from improved quality of toilets following Social Accountability Monitoring (SAM) exercise at Amani Primary School.
Apart from that, Public Expenditure Tracking System (PETS) committees, each with 10 members were formed in 10 villages and the committees influenced improved quality of social services delivery in the villages through which about 70,000 people in total benefited.
Tandahimba like other district in Tanzania was facing the challenge of limited
participation of the poor and excluded with their organization in advocating for equitable budgetary allocation on social services.
Limited capacity of people in lobbying, advocacy and governance tenets (transparency accountability) for policy changes and inadequate transparency and accountability on the use of public funding on the part
of duty bearers.
“Governance work is cutting across all thematic areas which Tandahimba LRP is implementing. Transparency and accountability as well as citizens’ participation in their affairs are related in ensuring holistic development of the society,” the activist noted.
“Our work of good governance in the last 14 years focused on developing the capacity of local government actors so that they are able to respond to communities needs.
Strengthening citizens’ awareness to demand accountability and transparency on expenditure management, while grasping the decentralization process in Tanzania necessitated citizens’ participation and involvement in decision
making at all levels of government structure.
Despite efforts made, ActionAid vision to broaden transparency and accountability is still challenged and there are reflections of denying the right of citizens to participate meaningfully in democratic processes.
LRP was officially started in Tandahimba in 2002 and so far three strategic plans have been implemented to address poverty in the LRP that have contributed to the holistic development of the area.
“The initial interventions of the LRP mainly focused on service delivery that entails provision of services to communities especially through supporting the communities immediate needs such as infrastructure development (construction of schools, health facilities and water points,” he says.
The LRP were funded mainly through the sponsorship funding mechanism where children are linked to supporters from Italy. Development works of the LRP covered various villages and wards of the districts, he added.