Women's Economic Empowerment in Tanzania

Our analysis of women’s economic empowerment programmes in Tanzania will contribute to recommendations about how a ‘double boon’ can be created, i.e. decent paid work that provides support for unpaid care work responsibilities, along with removal of barriers to entry and retention in the labour market. 

In Tanzania, the research is being conducted by BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Unit (REU), with support from Oxfam Tanzania for advocacy and policy uptake activities.

Case studies

Our research will seek to learn from the diverse lived experiences of women entrepreneurs benefiting from micro-finance loans provided by the Women Development Fund and those participating in the Vegetable Value Chain project in the Korogwe and Lushoto districts of Tanga.

The Women Development Fund is implemented by the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children to economically empower women entrepreneurs through micro-credit support.

The Vegetable Value Chain project is implemented by Oxfam Tanzania to build the capacity of small scale vegetable farmers through training on global good practices, certification of producers and building business hubs around cooling centres to export vegetables to European markets.

Social, political and economic context

Tanzania is one of the largest countries in Africa, with a population of over 51 million. Despite sustained economic growth the country, it is ranked 159 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index. There remains high levels of youth unemployment, rising income disparities and hunger and malnutrition remains a big challenge.

In 2013 Tanzania was ranked 124 in the Gender Equality Index. Women face barriers in access to decision-making at all levels and many laws and customary practices remain discriminatory against women. Maternal mortality rates and the burden of HIV are also major concerns for gender equality.

In terms of political participation, as of 2013 women had a 36 per cent share of seats in the national parliament. Gender equality and women’s empowerment form a major component of the National Poverty Reduction Strategies (MKUKUTA II in Mainland and MKUZA II in Zanzibar) under the goals on governance, education and health.

Despite the gender gaps in society, Tanzania has ratified several international commitments to women’s rights, including the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1995 Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action. Constitutionally, gender-based discrimination is prohibited and it guarantees full participation for men and women in social, economic and political life. 

Land and inheritance rights are an important issue in Tanzania and in 2014 there were celebrations after the draft Constitution included a section giving women the power to own and inherit land in the same way as men. A referendum on the new Constitution, which also includes a requirement that parliament is split 50/50 between women and men, is due to be held in 2015.

In 2015 a high profile court case brought the issue of inheritance laws in Tanzania into the international spotlight. Two female widows initiated court proceedings, arguing that the prevalence of customary laws under which women may inherit nothing from their husbands and women and girls cannot inherit clan land, violated Tanzania’s constitution and its obligations under international human rights treaties it had ratified.

The United Nations committee responsible for monitoring state compliance with CEDAW issued a ‘ground-breaking’ judgment in their favour.

Women’s economic empowerment

In Tanzania, labour force participation is 88.1 per cent for women and 90.2 per cent for men. Women are more likely than men to be poor and illiterate and less likely to have access to training and credit. Yet, women are the main care givers in many households. The economic necessity of taking up paid work constrains women’s time, creating strains within the family. Women are forced to adapt on a daily basis to compromise on either their paid work (in terms of where they work, and what jobs they undertake) or their social responsibilities in the effort to make this new reality work for the woman, her family and community.

Lance Bellers

After a lot of advocacy from the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics added time use surveys to their Integrated Labour Force Survey in 2006. The survey provides a wealth of information on the range of paid and unpaid activities and tasks that women and men undertake during a day. It allows for measurement of the work done by women which is usually undercounted in all other surveys and very explicitly includes children and time spent on caring for children and the amount of time that men and women spend in caring for children. Time use surveys have also been used by the Statistical Department in 2005 and 2006 to study distribution of time of household members. This study also mentions children.

Key reading

Human Development Report. UNDP (2014). 

About Tanzania. UNDP.

Gender Equality Index. UNDP (2014).

Gender. United Nations in Tanzania.

The UN’s Rebuke of Inheritance Laws Is a Victory for Women’s Health. Ezer, T. (2015). Open Society Foundations.

Latest updates

12.09.16Participatory methods in mixed methods research – a methodological treasure

Since the inception of the GrOW project, on unpaid care work and women´s economic empowerment, the team mixed three strands of research methods – qualitative, quantitative and participatory.What added value do participatory methods bring to mixed methods research? Kas Sempere writes about the particular professional challenges of methods in the project taking place in India, Nepal, Rwanda and Tanzania.

ISST will host a five day methodology workshop in Delhi, from Monday 22 until Friday 26 June, bringing the teams from the Institute of Development Studies, ISST and BRAC-REU together to develop a detailed methodology and data collection tools. 

Researchers on balancing unpaid care and paid work will meet at the Institute of Developments studies from 28 April to 1 May 2015. The inception workshop will discuss research questions, methods and how each country team will take their work forward. The project is part of the GrOW programme.