On the morning of March 11th, I arrived at Sidai with a car full of cakes, fruit and tea excited to see who had arrived celebrate our special day. The tent was up, the sun was shining, bunting flags were hung and the gates were open wide to welcome our guests.
Attendees had travelled from all around the district to celebrate International Women’s Day in Arusha town with One Woman Project and Sidai Designs. Some from neighbouring cities, some from the villages. Some came by bus, some by foot. All of a sudden, eighty people were sat anticipating the opening of the event.
‘I want you to think to yourself, ‘what do you think of when you think of a woman?’’
Our first speaker was Mackrine Shao-Rumanyika of HIMS (Health Integrated Multisectorial Services’). Mackrine has been working since 1993 to empower marginalised group in Tanzania, from the Maasai, to street children, those subjected to FGM to the elderly. All of her work has been seen through a gendered lens. Mackine stood before the group and asked them to question their own ideas of women and the role of women in Tanzania. Some participants shared their role in society, some reflected on what had been expected of them. A school girl stood up - ‘A women is someone who deserves to be in control of her own destiny’. Mackrine then moved on to talk about women’s health in Tanzania and how the health of women is essential for a happy, healthy community.
‘Women are the key to education’
Our second speaker was Glory Mollel, co-director from The Learning Space. The Learning Space brings young children from all different social, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds together to learn in a happy and stimulating environment. They help children inspire children to love learning, think creatively and to be caring and confident in all that they do. Glory spoke about how education doesn’t just happen in schools, it happens all around us. Glory speaks passionately when she tells the participants that women are the key to education for children, that a mother is one of the greatest teachers in a child’s life. She then goes on to say that if we invest in the education of women, we are in turn investing in the education of our children, and therefore building a stronger, better tomorrow. Glory then split the participants into groups of ten, mixing tribe, race, religion, socio-economic status. She then gave each group a packet of 50 matches, and asked each group to build something in three minutes. Each group put their heads together, and in their diversity created some amazing match-stick sculptures.
‘If a woman is educated she will be able to gain employment or even employ herself, and this will aid her community’
Our final speaker for the day was Maria Olinashe from MVIWATA. Mviwata is a national farmers organisation that links small holder farmers from all regions of Tanzania so that they have a common voice to defend economic, social, cultural and political interests of substance farmers. They also played a role in connecting Sidai Maasai Women Organisation with talented beaders like Maria from rural remote regions. Maria is a community leader who speaks loudly about the rights of women to work. Many women in rural and remote Tanzania are unable to engage in paid work, and are expected to adhere to tribal gender roles - child bearing, livestock keeping etc. Not being able to make an income, takes away a woman’s independence, Maria tells the group. She goes on to emphasise how important it is that women in Tanzania are educated about their rights, especially the right to make a living. Maria believes that when women are able to provide an income, communities grow stronger.
As we closed our event, one of the women called out ‘who is going to dance with me?!’ And so we danced and sang and celebrated our day, International Women’s Day.
One Woman Project would like to say a huge thank you to Sidai Maasai Women Organisation for excellent collaboration and for working to hard to provide empowerment opportunities to women in the Maasai community. You can read more about Sidai at sidaidesigns.org
We extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to all the organisations for participating in our celebration and fighting to make this world better for women.
Finally, to all the women from Tanzania and the world over, thank you for all that you do - shine on!
Dare Women’s Foundation
The Learning Space
The School of St. Jude
Forever Living Products
Pastoral Women’s Council