Women in Innovation: Embracing Gender Equality for Sustainable Livelihoods
International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March to recognise the unique roles and achievements of women, and to promote and assess progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year, the commemoration theme focuses on innovation, technology and gender equality. It provides a further opportunity to celebrate women and girls who champion innovation; to explore solutions to ongoing gender gaps relating to economic and social inequalities; and to shine a light on the need to actively protect the rights of women and girls on a continuous basis.
Ireland has a strong track record as a champion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Under the current Mission Strategy 2022–2026, Ireland is committed to supporting marginalised women and girls in Tanzania to manage stresses, realise their rights and fulfil their potential. In collaboration with partners, we work to ensure that Tanzanian women and girls have more sustainable and resilient livelihoods, more capacity to adapt to climate change and to benefit from a sustainable blue economy (contributing to SDGs 1, 5, 10, 13, 14) through a range of programmes.
One of these programmes is Bahari Mali, which supports women’s economic empowerment and leadership by unlocking sustainable livelihoods in the blue economy, traditionally a male-dominated sphere. The programme aims to support over 20 women-led community groups in the next 3 years through a Blue Economy Incubator (BEI) initiative in Tanga region and Pemba-Zanzibar.
The groups, consisting of both young women and men, receive training on blue entrepreneurship skills, governance and leadership, and are provided with seed funding to accelerate and scale-up their ocean ventures, whilst also protecting natural resources in their local environment. These innovative, women-led ventures have built high levels of confidence, knowledge and skills, positive attitude and practices that have been translated into increased income and improved livelihoods.
During the pilot phase of Bahari Mali, four innovative start-up ocean ventures supported through the Blue Economy Incubator have created more than 100 new blue jobs with the majority (over 75%) going to women and girls:
- Jifute Community Group, undertaking an innovative crab fattening venture in Pangani District, Tanga, has increased monthly profits by 80% in the last 12 months through improved production – from 80kgs to more about 400kgs per month – whilst protecting local mangroves.
- Mapape Cooperative are farming sea cucumbers in Mkoani District, Pemba, and have increased production – from 100 to more than 3,000 sea cucumbers in a year. This has resulted in increased annual revenue from TSh 4.32million (€1,814) to TSh 36million (€15,120). The group is engaging in mangrove beekeeping with a double benefit of generating additional revenue for the group and protecting mangroves habitats.
- Uvumbuzi Cooperative, undertaking salt production in Mkoani District, Pemba, has increased production capacity from 4 to 20 tons, in a year, through improved infrastructure. This has also increased their revenue by 80% in just one year. The group is also engaged in fish farming in some salt ponds whilst support restoration and conservation of mangroves and coastal vegetations around the ponds and production area.
- Foundation for Trees have established a tree nursery in Pangani District, Tanga, supporting agro-forestry and restoration of mangroves. Currently, the group has more than 20,000 seedlings with a total value of TSh 20,000,000 (€8,400). The group has worked with communities and other small local groups to restore 4 acres of mangroves during the 12 month period.
The programmes have also enhanced participation in the governance of the coastal and marine resources that has resulted in the restoration of more than 4 hectares of mangroves along the Tanga-Pemba seascape. Finally, and very importantly, these projects have helped to demystify some of the stereotypes associated with women engaged in sea farming and other marine activities. They have started questioning those restrictive social norms that limit women to roles as carers with men as producers. Other Embassy partners, including UZIKWASA also working in Tanga, are focused on identifying and tackling these social norms in conjunction with our work supporting sustainable livelihoods. We look forward to seeing more exciting results in the second year of Bahari Mali, and more innovation through these high-potential start-up ventures led by women.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Embassy of Ireland, Tanzania.