In Tanzania, there are many disadvantages that youth—especially women—face. Agricultural yields from women-worked land are less than men-worked land, women are poorer in society, and household burdens for women are significantly higher than they are for men. While Tanzania has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation in Africa (African Gender Equality Index. 2015), girls are still constitutionally allowed to marry by age 14 with “special permission” (USAID CDCS 2014-2019). Girls who marry below the age of 18 face the added pressures of starting a family, which can, in turn, result in dropping out of school. This leaves women with fewer skills to make them employable, should they have time to work outside of the home.
To tackle these issues, SNV is implementing USAID’s Feed the Future Tanzania Advancing Youth (AY) project, led by DAI. AY aims to empower Tanzanian youth between the ages of 15 and 35 with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to enter into meaningful and sustainable employment or entrepreneurship in agriculture and other rural-based value chains that have sustainable income-generating potential.
One of the main indicators of this project concentrates on gender; specifically, aiming to increase the percentage of female participants to provide access to productive economic resources for women. In order to encourage more women and girls to register for this program, the project has found that including spouses in the dialogue has been extremely helpful. AY’s Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development Specialist, Neemiah Kahakwa, explains that involving spouse and other family members is vital in getting more young women to participate in the program. This allows them to feel more comfortable to join the program and gives their spouses more information on how it would not only benefit the women, but also them.
“We have seen that if we want to get young women to participate in this program, it is very paramount to involve their spouse. We have what we call ‘Open Days’ where we invite the husbands, wives, parents, etc. [to] explain what AY does, why we want to register their children, and why we want to work with their wives.”
By providing an open discussion to the community, answering all of the questions that they may have on the program and explaining its benefits, spouses and parents feel more encouraged to support the women and girls in their family in registering and participating. Although young men in Tanzania may hold some traditional gender norms, findings from the project revealed that they are likely to embrace and accept women as equals and leaders. To date, the project has met their target of registering 60% of young women into the program.
By encouraging young women and girls to join the program, introducing them to economic resources, and encouraging young men in the community to support their spouses, AY is contributing to the worldwide aim to build a gender-balanced world.
Written by: Hibaq Dougsiyeh