Women's Economic Empowerment in Tanzania

WEE in Tanzania

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.

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.

The research

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).

Case studies

Our research seeks 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.

View our case studies

Research uptake

Oxfam Tanzania is our partners for advocacy and policy uptake activities.

National level roundtable meeting bringing stakeholders in gender and livelihoods to discuss findings of the research3rd August 2017
Field uptake dissemmination which will join stakeholders from both Lushoto district andKorogwe district, Regional leaders, CSO and private sector8th  & 10th August 2017
Disseminating the national report to policy makers14th August -1st September 2017

Read the reports

WEE programmes

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.

National report

'My Mother Does a Lot of Work': Women Balancing Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania

Zambelli, Elena; Roelen, Keetie; Hossain, Naomi; Chopra, Deepta; Twebaze, Jenipher,  October 2017

Tanzanian women spend more time overall than men on unpaid care work activities, and less on cash-earning work. This report presents the findings of research conducted in Tanzania as part of the ‘Balancing unpaid care work and paid work: successes, challenges and lessons for women’s economic empowerment programmes and policies’ research project. In particular, it reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members who live across four rural districts in the Tanga region.

The study finds that women in the region shoulder the majority of unpaid care work responsibilities, and struggle to balance these with paid work. Women therefore suffer the drudgery and physical and psychosocial stress of juggling paid work with unpaid work. Reasons for this include:

  • the persistence of gender norms about who should do care work;
  • the lack of public services essential to both the care and paid economies; and
  • the low incomes earned by both women and men in these impoverished communities.

The study highlights that intervention is needed to support a rebalancing of unpaid care with paid work. This could be achieved through: improved working conditions and pay; provision of childcare; public water or fuel services; gender-sensitive infrastructural development; and efforts to address gender-unequal social norms and values that proscribe the redistribution of care.

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.