Building their future: challenging year prompts members of Lake Natron’s Women’s Solidarity Boma to change focus
Loliondo division, a popular stopover for tourists on safari, has been impacted by significantly reduced traffic due to the pandemic.
For the women who are members of two Women’s Solidarity Bomas in the district, this has prompted some innovative alternative sources of income and an opportunity to build skills as a community.
The Women’s Solidarity Bomas are run by women in two communities in Loliondo and overseen by PWC. Bomas are a place for women to live for a year (with any children they might have) to find their feet after a marriage breakdown or other unforeseen events.
Women in the solidarity bomas support each other, share ideas regarding participation in leadership and ways to earn an income.
“The bomas are a way for women to show the men in their community that they can own property and be leaders.” Nalemuta Moisan, Solidary Boma Programme Lead said.
“They discuss women’s rights and issues in the community; if somebody has had their rights violated, they will discuss how to support them. They then go into their wider community to educate people on women’s rights.” she added.
However, with the decline in tourism due to international travel restrictions, their primary income source – selling wood carvings and jewellery to tourists passing through – has been severely impacted.
Climate smart agriculture
The women at the Lake Natron Women’s Solidarity Boma decided to take the opportunity to create infrastructure that will support them long after COVID-19.
With support of the PWC team, an irrigation plan was designed and the boma members commenced work constructing a pipe from Lake Natron into the boma.
The next step is to start growing vegetables that can be sold in town, reducing the boma members’ reliance on tourism for income.
The programme hasn’t been without it’s challenges: “There is a lot of sand around Lake Natron that we had to shift to put in the pipes. We also need to add another layer of topsoil to accommodate the healthy growth of the vegetables planted in the garden.” Nalemuta said.
The women also worked hard to improve their shopfront; planting trees for shade and a fence around the site.
“We thank PWC for how much work they have done to help us. Now that water is available for irrigation and for growing vegetables, we are able to sustain our family and provide for them despite the fact that tourists are not coming during this pandemic,” said a member of the Lake Natron Women’s Solidarity.
“Women know the programme, they are already set up to achieve. But we hope that through all of this, they will keep benefitting long after COVID-19.”
Women’s empowerment starts with education, but the approach must be holistic. Without safe spaces to learn and grow, students cannot thrive.
This year, two different PWC education programmes have been working to create education platforms for pastoral women and girls that give them the support and opportunities they need to thrive. In turn, both programmes are raising broader awareness; on the importance of education and striving for communities free from gender-based violence.
Safe and supportive foundations
Gender-based violence has been a hot topic around the world in 2020 due to sustained lockdowns and disconnection from community services. Here in Tanzania, the TAPALA programme continued to push ahead with its campaign educating girls, women and whole communities on issues relating to gender-based violence. TAPALA, which means “Stop!” in Maasai, works with schools, male and female students, families and communities on the premise that a positive education environment requires a safe space to learn.
TAPALA’s holistic approach starts with male and female students, and extend to teachers, district committees and the wider community. At the same time, structures are put in place to make school environments safe; from better fencing to addressing ways to avoid girls having to walk outside of school grounds to collect water.
Changing attitudes can take time, but TAPALA is on the right path. The number of active members of student TAPALA clubs almost doubled its target of 480; reaching 810 by the end of the financial year. Students in the clubs discuss gender-based violence issues and take part in role play learning modules. Similar activities took place at a community level.
Korduni Tinina, TAPALA programme lead, emphasised change has to happen at a community level. “There is no easy way to change community attitudes”, Korduni says.
“Now people are starting to change their attitudes because they are aware of the issue. Reporting of violence is going up – that is a key indicator that people are becoming aware. People have also seen others taken to court or prison so they know it is a serious issue.”
Adapting to 2020
School shutdowns due to COVID-19 prompted many education programmes to adapt and pivot. Like TAPALA, the Pastoral Girls Education (PGE) initiative in Loliondo changed its approach to monitor the welfare of students while supporting distance education.
The PGE programme supports two schools in Loliondo district to improve their STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education offering. Before COVID-19, STEM clubs were established and teachers were equipped with engaging learning materials. At Emanyata Secondary School a dedicated science lab is under construction.
However, when schools to shut down to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the programme was forced to pivot. Teachers and students were provided with books and learning resources. Programme workers visited students in their homes to provide materials.
These visits also allowed programme workers and teachers to conduct welfare checks and report any safety concerns among students. Thankfully, no girls undertook forced marriage during this period.
Grace Scorey, PGE programme lead, believes one very important factor determined the PGE’s ongoing success: “It is very important that there is trust in the community. We have a mutual friendship between PWC and the community, which means we are able to visit their homes and have the conversation.”
“Now the community is sensitised on [the importance of] education. They are less likely to send girls to be married early.”
A TAPALA Google Play app, was developed for on and offline use this year, and distributed via 80 tablet devices to 8 schools. Students and teachers can use the app on a school device or their own phone to undertake modules on violence and report any incidents of concern.
The timing was perfect; without regular contact hours, student welfare was a significant concern. TAPALA programme leads worked with the Tanzanian government to identify officials available to help students in need over shutdown periods, and their contact details were provided on the app.
Both TAPALA and PGE have had to adapt to challenging circumstances this year, but both teams remain focused; their work is more important than ever.
Pastoral women have embraced economic empowerment initiatives more than ever this year, as many work to balance impacts of the economic challenges of COVID-19 with alternative sources of income.
One such challenge was the shutting of cross border business with neighbouring Kenya, limiting trade options. Pastoralist women took on this challenge and strengthened their small businesses to fill the gap.
Pastoral Women’s Council runs programs aimed at building capacity, economic empowerment, business skills development and financial literacy in building resilience and creating opportunities for pastoralist women.
PWC established 100 VICOBA (Village Community Banks) groups in local communities in Ngorongoro and Longido Districts from late 2019. This means that more than 2,500 women had access to VICOBA groups this year and were able to access and contribute to the model of shared economic support and micro-funding.
VICOBA groups are community led and organised, with 5 women working together to form the core committee. With a pool of funds sourced from VICOBA group members and donations, members make their case to the committee to receive access to loans. The modest interest repayments made on that loan help to grow the committee’s funds.
Namurru, a long-term member of the Naishiye VICOBA group, describes how the funding and business training she has received helped her to diversify her income and invest in more sustainable, less competitive markets.
[After an initial loan] “My business kept growing and I was now able to buy 50kgs of sugar, a parcel of tea leaves and 25kgs of rice... I opted to reduce sugar business and invest some money into [the] goat business because many women in my homestead bought and sold the same sugar product.”
“I was able to use part of my business profit to buy maize bran and cotton cake to feed my cows so that I could get more milk.
Updates from the Energize Project
This year, PWC also implemented the Energize project, a program that targets out of school young women to upskill them on financial literacy and provide opportunities to diversify their income to include the sale of solar products locally. The education program enrolled 101 participants this year, who received training on domestic biogas construction and solar panel installation. Of the initial cohort, 7 graduates have already been supported to start their own clean energy business.
Energize Girl Selina who lives in Malambo Village, is a talented traditional jewelry maker who was selling her wares to her neighbours and community members. Keen to diversify her income and save money to return to school, Selina applied to take part in the Energize program.
Selina is now assisting other young members of her community to better understand about saving for their goal while adapting to renewable sources of energy. She said, “I didn’t know better ways of saving, but now I have understood, and I am willing to teach others.”
In 2017, PWC started up and registered the Engishon Microfinance Fund, a social enterprise whose goal is to enhance access to affordable and flexible loans to pastoralist communities, especially women and youth, to enable them expand their businesses. In this past year, the fund continued to provide accessible loans facilities as well as business training to members of VICOBA groups. Ruth Lazaro, a young graduate from vocational training college accessed a business loan to start up her tailoring business. “Engishon Microfinance provided me with a loan of Tsh. 1,000,000 (approximately $435USD) that enabled me to buy two sewing machines, kanga fabrics, thread and other materials necessary to set up my small tailoring business.”
These interventions have been well placed to support pastoral women through the challenges and changes felt globally in 2020. With significant capacity built across communities, we look forward to seeing what women in all three programs can achieve together in 2021.
“My life was a life of struggle before I joined the VICOBA. I was working in other people’s houses earning whatever money I could get to provide for my family.
“I am the sole provider for my children. My parents used to provide some assistance but when my father passed away that support was no longer available and I also became responsible for the care of my mother. I joined the VICOBA because I saw it as an opportunity to release myself from extreme poverty. In the beginning
The 'Ebeneza B' VICOBA Group first began with women members of the local Ketumbeine Baptist church who came together in 2013 when World Vision kick-started the group with a gift of 65 chickens.
By 2014 there was so much interest in the group that PWC became involved to support the women involved and in the end one large group was split to become Ebeneza A & Ebeneza B.
“PWC gave us the training on business skills and then they trained us on how to establish a VICOBA" says Ebeneza B member Furaha, who has been involved in the project since its inception.
“Through PWC's support we are now very confident and organised. When World Vision announced they would recruit service providers in Ketumbeine for cooking for their staff, Ebeneza B just knew we could do it. Because we were already established and had the savings to invest we were able to win the tender" she says.
Winning the World Vision catering tender changed everything for the women of Ebeneza B.
“With the World Vision work we are paid 12,000 tsh per person per day for our cooking services. This amounts to over 1,800,000 tsh per year for the group. Together with the World Vision work we also invest in group members with loans for small businesses" Furaha explains.
“When the VICOBA first started I borrowed 50,000 tsh and started a business selling sugar, greens and fruits. In the second loan round I then obtained another 200,000 to grow my business further.
"Now, my family is no longer eating ugali for every meal! We can afford variety and healthy vegetables and meat. Food is no longer a problem for my family.
“Life is very good now. My children have new clothes, and I bought my husband a phone which made him so happy.
“After joining the VICOBA I am now very appreciated by my husband. He is so pleased I am in the group and he encourages – sometimes even insists – that I attend the meetings. It makes such a difference to my family.”
“I joined my local VICOBA group in 2014. After I joined I was assisted by the group to build an iron-roofed house through our rotating grants. Now I have a stable home for my family, it is a huge relief.
“I am pleased to be in the group because I have support with these women – if I am sick they will help me with medical funds, if I have troubles the will help to pay my children's school fees. With this group I have refuge”
“My husband was ok with me joining the group in the beginning, but his appreciation has grown and grown now as he sees results. I have established a shop through the VICOBA support, selling spices and foods. I took my share of the groups’ profit and my husband and I decided together how to use the money.
“In the future I plan to apply for a plot in the local trading centre so I can permanently establish my shop and ensure my family’s wellbeing for the future. My main concern for the funds is to put my children through school.
“I am schooled through to Std 7, and I hope my children can go all the way to the end of school! Secondary, college…how far can they go?!”
“I was one of the founding members of the WRLF after PWC came to the village council to discuss bringing together the local women.
“On forming, our first point of concern was to improve women’s rights to land, property and personal protection. At the time, women were not at all involved in decision making in the village or at home. For example, women were not involved in decisions to sell family livestock or how to use the money. No women owned their own land either.
“Over the last few years the forum has solved spousal conflict for 10 families. Most of the issues were instances where wives were unfairly treated and not given their rights. The training we received through the WRLF meant that we were able to resolve the issues, and I am positive that more training will have even more impact in our local community. I already see more women owning land and property and this continues to grow.
“My own life has been changed through my involvement in the WRLF. I now stand in the general assemblies and speak up for my rights. All of us women now are strong and confident to stand up for our rights in front of our husbands and all men. We are no longer afraid.
“The highlight of my time in the WRLF as Chairwoman came during the elections for village council. We secured 10 women representatives out of the total 25 council members. In the past we have had a maximum of four.
“I am one of the newly elected female council members. In my new role I hope that I can advocate for women’s rights and progress for this whole community. I am excited to be able to represent my fellow women as a leader.”
“The Engareser Women's Solidarity Boma was established four years ago, but in 2016 PWC funded the building of a solid structure to protect our market area from the weather.
“The boma was originally established by women in the area who had learnt about their rights and wanted to establish a place of their own to conduct business. PWC became involved soon after our establishment, to help us get organised and strong.
“PWC has helped us with training to improve our beading products to appeal to our tourist market, as well as assist us to purchase and keep 50 livestock. These livestock are the first for us women to own independently. We share in the care of them and will share in the profit from resale.
“Primarily the women here have been nominated by their own sub-villages to be part of the boma due to their extreme poverty. Some of us have husbands that live far away, and many of us are widows. It is a refuge option for some. Being part of the boma helps us to work together to support each other and lift ourselves from poverty.”
“PWC contribute a lot to this community in terms of women’s empowerment, particularly economically through the Income Generating Groups (IGGs). PWC have helped to establish IGGs in the area which are making it possible for women to have access to loans and finance.
“I am already seeing women establishing their own businesses, which is having a positive economic impact in the community. As a result, I know that more children are attending school and people are not struggling financial as they have in the past. The women are even dressing better now! You can see their pride and confidence growing. We need to end the oppression of women in our communities.”