How EdUKaid's women's projects are supporting International Women's Day

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD), first celebrated in 1911, is a global day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Additionally, it marks a call to action for gender parity.

IWD is undoubtedly important every year, but perhaps never more important this year given the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on women. In recognition of this, the theme for this year’s IWD is:

Women in leadership: achieving an equal future in a Covid world.

To achieve this equal future, we must #ChooseToChallenge. Afterall, a challenged world is an alert world. Here we look at why and how EdUKaid is #ChoosingToChallenge gender inequality in Tanzania.  

Why we need to #ChooseToChallenge in Tanzania

On the 29th April 2020, Tanzania stopped releasing Covid-19 related statistics. Until this point, Tanzania had recorded only 509 cases and 21 Covid-19 related deaths. This highly criticised decision has made it impossible to gauge the extent of the virus in Tanzania. However, it is clear that despite the President’s belief that God has eliminated Covid-19, Tanzania has not gone unscathed – women feeling the effects the hardest.

1) Increase in the Burden of Unpaid Care Work During the Pandemic

For decades unpaid care work (UCW) has been undervalued and remained largely invisible from economic calculations, policy and politics. Yet, during Covid-19 governments have increasingly relied on UCW as a means to combat the virus. The closure of schools has left families with no choice but to juggle paid and unpaid work.

The UN Women document 'Whose Time to Care? Unpaid care and domestic work during Covid-19 has confirmed that both men and women have increased their time unpaid caring during the pandemic, but women are still disproportionately bearing the brunt. This is because gender norms unduly dictate that women are better biologically matched to the nurturing role.

In Tanzania, women spend on average 4.1 hours a day unpaid caring versus men who spend 1.7 hours. These heavy and unequal care responsibilities are a major barrier to gender equality and women’s equal enjoyment of human rights. The intensity of UCW such as collecting water or firewood, leaves women time poor, with little energy to pursue other socio-economic activities such as paid work. This in turn exposes women to income poverty. To increase disposable time and income, women shift domestic work onto their children. Again, gender norms mean parents see girls in the public sphere of domestic caring, while boys in the private sphere of school and work. Unicef research shows girls spend 40% more time on unpaid care work than boys.

Overall, this risks a self-reinforcing cycle of UCW, and thus time, income leads to further poverty, as housework and caring responsibilities interfere with girls’ educational attendance and attainment.

Through advocating for girls’ education and teaching girls about their rights, EdUKaid is working to challenge the assumption that girls are presumed unpaid carers and raise awareness on the importance of girls remaining in school.

2) Women’s Economic Insecurity and the Informal Sector

To reconcile unpaid and paid work, women have been forced into informal, flexible work. In Tanzania 82% of informal sector workers are women. This work is often associated with low wages, lack of job security and minimal employment and social security rights.

Following the closure of non-essential shops and ban on non-essential travel, jobs in the informal sector have been most hit by Covid-19. This means women disproportionately face a loss of earnings. Even worse, women risk unemployment, research by UN Women showing that 1.7 times as many women as men were outside the labour force by the middle of 2020.

Through ensuring that girls stay in school, EdUKaid increases the likelihood of the next generation of women having the literacy skills and confidence to challenge unequal caring responsibilities and instead secure paid, formal work. Additionally, EdUKaid is supporting women throughout lockdown via its Kushona Project. Here women are given the space, tools and training to support their sewing enterprises and increase their incomes.

3) Gender Based-Violence

Finally, strong commitments and progress to women’s sexual reproductive health rights have been undermined by Covid-19. Globally, 1/3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence. In Tanzania, this figure is greater, 40% of women and girls aged 15-49 having experienced physical violence and 17% sexual violence in their lifetime. As Dorothy Aseyo explains, curfews, quarantines and lockdowns risks this statistic increasing as women are placed closer to their aggressors.

During quarantine, you are in your home and … there is no one to police you. It gives [people] that leeway and that safe haven space, [to] think, ‘no one will catch me’.

EdUkaid’s Heshima Project #ChoosesToChallenge gender-based violence, Girls Clubs providing a safe space for girls to increase awareness on action and measures to take against gender related violence.

The need for a Gender Perspective in Covid-19 Recovery

The disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on women makes it all the more important that their voices are included in the decision-making processes for Covid-19 recovery.

The success of female-led countries during the pandemic such as New Zealand in hand with the creator of the first RNA based vaccine being led by a female headed company, proves that women can, and should be, included in leadership positions. Yet still, women only serve as Heads of State or Government in 21 countries.

A diversity of voices at the table allows for the unfolding of intersectional experiences of the pandemic for both men and women, rather than just one demographic. This opens the door for discussion of the root causes of conflict which have made women so vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic in the first place. Overall, this increases the likelihood of a holistic response that includes commitments to redistributing unequal UCW, reducing gender-based violence and providing women-specific economic assistance. This will ensure that any progress towards gender equality and women’s rights is not lost post pandemic. 

Women in Leadership at EdUKaid

Here at EdUKaid we maintain this ethos of women’s inclusion in decision-making roles. Bintially Mfangavo, our first female manager, is a proof that women can excel, and belong, in positions of authority. Bintially is a role model to girls in Tanzania, her work on the Heshima Project providing girls with the knowledge and confidence they need to prepare for, and manage, menstruation.

Donate to EdUKaid here to give girls the chance of an equal education and safer future

Blog - making Education Accessible to Girls in Tanzania