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“Most of the leaders in my community are men. But I am going to be a very successful business woman.” – Faraja, 25, Tanzania.

Becoming a business woman should be a right for any woman, anywhere. To have an idea, an ambition, a dream realised.

But for many women, this can seem impossible.

In Tanzania, traditions keep women from taking part in important family and community decisions. Faraja, 25, knows this only too well. She lives in a rural area in Tanzania where women do not have many opportunities or access to employment to make ends meet.

“Due to traditions and customs, people tend to believe the decisions made by men rather than those from women.”

According to the Tanzanian Women’s Lawyer Association (TAWLA), 44% of married women experience unequal treatment by their husbands. Women are often trapped in a cycle of being married young so that their parents no longer have to pay for their living costs. Often they then have to dropout of school so they can stay at home to do domestic chores or bring up children.

“Men normally go to the farm and women remain at home doing domestic chores and taking care of the family. Women are often beaten by their husbands, not allowed to take part in leadership positions and denied the chance to engage into various economic activities.”

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Judith is from Faraja’s community and volunteers with Restless Development. Judith explains how this cycle of discrimination against women is hard to break:

“We have a lot if issues facing young girls in the community. For example the issue of early marriage and early pregnancy. Also we have the issue of gender based violence, especially to young girls. They are being discriminated on the issue of owning land, properties and they don’t have voice to speak in the family.”

Judith and other young volunteers have been trained by Restless Development to lead sessions in Faraja’s community and the surrounding villages.

“I deliver sessions on family planning. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of different methods?

Sometimes I invite expert healthcare providers on the issue of family planning, to give a clear explanation about the family planning method.”

Collecting and sharing information is a crucial part of Judith’s volunteer work. By conducting interviews with community members they are able to find out what people’s concerns are related to family planning and address these in their training sessions. This information is also used to inform local leaders about what the communities views are.

“I conducted an interview with local leaders on the issue of how the availability of health service on the issue of family planning, their ideas/ perceptions of people in the community on the issue of family planning.

The data tells us where the gaps are and how we can fix them. By collecting the data we have, leaders will be accountable on fixing these gaps.”

From this training, Faraja and other young mothers have built their skills and knowledge in the areas of gender equality and family planning. Faraja says:

“Being trained by fellow young person makes us understand much better compared to an older person.

I have learned and understand my position as a woman in the community, and what should be my contribution as a youth in the development of my society at large.”

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Faraja took what she learnt to her husband:

“Once I came back from the training, I usually give feedback to my husband of the subject taught. He was very interested to learn about gender equality particularly the position of the woman in the community.”

She spoke to her husband about her ambition to start her own business. He supported her with $15 so she could buy sunflower seeds from small farmers. She was then able to sell the seeds for a profit of $5 to big traders.

“Now I can contribute to the income of my family, supporting with small expenditures like buying food, sugar, soap and school stationery for my child as well as saving to support the family during emergencies.

Through my business, I have inspired my colleagues to take actions by opening small businesses as well. Also, it is happy to see some women living a happier life with their beloved ones now.”

Faraja shared her future ambition:

“To be a very successful businesswoman, a good example to others, lifting others, and to stand out in fighting for women and girls’ rights.”

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These interviews were conducted by Masunga, another Youth Accountability Advocate on the project. He is writing a blog to accompany the story about how he collected the interview and why youth-led storytelling is so important to his work as an advocate.


 

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