A Better Balance

GenderSelf-help groupsTanzania

The women of Kwikuba were fed up of leaving everything to the men to change their village. So they got started themselves.

Here’s a good news story to mark International Women’s Day: Calum Steer is currently on a short volunteer placement in rural Tanzania, with Tearfund Go. While he’s there he has seen first hand how women in the village are transforming their lives and stepping out of the shadows.

‘Walking through the rural village of Kwikuba, I realise how accustomed I have become to the hot sun and the red dust swirling under my feet. I’ve been in Tanzania now for almost two months and I am conversing more readily in my broken Swahili. 

‘As we walk, members of the women’s self-help group talk passionately, sometimes over one another. They’re telling us about their newly found sense of identity and power in the village. We listen avidly to these energetic storytellers, and I’m captured by their enthusiasm as they unpack their journeys of transformation.' 

Beauty from ashes
‘Women’s voices are not always heard as readily as men’s in rural Tanzania. Tearfund’s partner, African Inland Church Tanzania (AICT), is working in Kwikuba to change this.

Men are beginning to give the women space they need to succeed.

‘They do this by establishing something called self-help groups. A group of women gather and pool together their small individual savings of Tanzanian shillings – it’s a small amount from each of them but it soon adds up. The money can then be loaned out as the entrepreneurial women initiate a business plan or a community project. 

‘Together, the women have set about revamping their village. They have already built a well and a dispensary with specialist maternity wards, and refurbished the primary school. The construction of a secondary school is well underway.'

The butterfly effect

‘One of the women, Grace, describes how they used to walk 14 kilometers to collect water every day. Now, she says, “I can walk less than one kilometre and still have time to run my business and take part in the self-help group.” 

‘All this proactive behaviour from the women has had another effect. Societal norms are beginning to shift. Our guide from AICT tells us, “Women are now able to exercise their agency and offer the skills God has given them for the benefit of their community.” 

The women of Kwikuba with Tearfund volunteers
The entrepreneurial women of Kwikuba along with the Tearfund Go volunteers.

‘In turn they are being shown more respect and are being given a chance to speak into their families’ decision-making. Men are beginning to back the women and give them the space they need to succeed. Money talks – as does healthcare, education and clean water.’ 

Room to grow
‘There's still a long way to go though. One woman, Esther, told us that her husband had recently threatened her. She called out for help but no-one came. She was later ridiculed for disturbing the community: “Family matters are personal,” she was told. “The community is not supposed to be involved.”

‘Over the next month our team will be more involved in AICT’s work with marginalised women. They are helping them to realise their worth even more – something that has happened automatically as they began saving together. Hopefully, as they do, incidents like the one above will decline. 

‘The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance for Better. Thanks to the work of AICT and Tearfund’s support, Kwikuba is becoming a more equal and a more prosperous place.’

Experience community transformation for yourself on a Tearfund Go placement. For more information go to www.tearfund.org/go.

Tearfund