Gender, Economic Transformation and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Tanzania

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Louise Fox, March 2016

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The government of Tanzania is currently preparing its next Five Year Development Plan (FYDP II). Ensuring women benefit from the development processes envisaged in the plan is instrumental to achieving its objectives. Analysis of recent data on employment and time use shows women have benefited from a decade of economic transformation in Tanzania. They have gained access to new employment opportunities in higher-productivity sectors such as manufacturing, trade and hotel and food services. The expansion of public services made possible by a decade of growth has increased the education of women in in the labour force, as well as bringing about longer life expectancy.

Some disadvantages have persisted, however. Yields per hectare in agriculture are still lower on land worked primarily by women compared with those on land worked by men. While men’s time taken up by household chores has reduced, women’s has not; this burden begins as early as 10 years old for females. Too many young women still marry before age 18 and start their families soon after, reducing their education and employment options in the future.

To the extent possible, FYDP II should include measures to reduce longstanding gender inequities, especially those that both reduce growth and transformation and worsen poverty. In non-agriculture sectors, programmes can help women gain access to new opportunities by supporting them to enter sectors and occupations from which they have been excluded. This may involve using tools such government procurement to encourage the private sector to be involved in this effort. In the agriculture sector, existing investments need to analyse why and how women have been left out. Plans for new investment and project designs need to diagnose the constraints to women’s participation at the start, with results monitored as projects proceed. Plans for service delivery improvements should prioritise investments that will reduce the time burden on women of housework and caring for household members.

In developing the FYDP II monitoring plan, efforts should be made to target the collection of data on employment and earnings by gender. This will require a review of how employment data are collected. Additional surveys should not be needed; instead, the current programme should be strengthened and streamlined to yield the necessary data. Client survey data need to be collected regularly for publicly provided services, and published in gender-disaggregated formats to ensure women have the access they need.

Photo credit: Russell Watkins, Department for International Development