Lack of women’s rights over farmland lights fire inside future activist
A need to right age-old discrimination wrongs leads lawyer to train and fight for women’s equality
What do you mean, women can’t own their own land?
Empowerment for women becomes a calling – and a career
Training shows how budgets are crucial to advocacy work
Having this kind of agency and demanding a seat at the table is very new for small women farmers. And the inroads Anna and her organization are starting to make are partly made possible by PELUM’s focus on budget advocacy. In 2021, Anna took part in budget analysis and advocacy training given by IBP and partner Policy Forum and says it has transformed her mission.
“Before the training, I wasn’t aware that the budget was crucial to everything we are doing at PELUM. [Now] I have realized that the issue of budgets is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be mainstreamed in every aspect of advocacy, the government and development. Budgets show how committed the government is to address [development] challenges.”
After the training, Anna prepared four budget briefs that were shared with Parliament and others on the effect of budgets on women. She is currently focused on pushing the government to allocate funds for land certificates for women as well as additional monies to help them hire professionals to guide them on how to use pesticides and fertilizers.
Reopening public participation in the budget process – and advocating for change
Anna’s advocacy illustrates the value of public participation in the budget process— and how it can ensure that public money uplifts women and other groups who have traditionally had little say. Nevertheless, Tanzania’s government currently provides few formal opportunities for the public to engage in meaningful debate around the budget. In IBP’s 2021 Open Budget Survey, Tanzania has a public participation score of 9, significantly lower than regional counterparts such as Kenya.
The low score is a sign of the times. Back in the 2015 survey, Tanzania’s public participation score was 33. The country has been participating in the Open Budget Survey for many years, but a regime change from 2015-2020 had a chilling effect on government openness and transparency, said Godfrey Boniventura, head of programs at IBP partner HakiElimu, which conducts the survey.
“During those years, the government was not in favor of civic space, democratic processes and issues of openness,” he said. In 2017, Tanzania pulled out of the Open Government Partnership and did not participate in the survey.
That all changed in 2021 when President Samia Suluhu Hassan, was sworn in, becoming Tanzania’s first female president. In the most recent survey, the country’s scores improved, but are significantly below the level that they were prior to 2015. Boniventura said he does see heartening new signs from the government of more openness, transparency, and collaboration with civil society.
“The executive budget proposal this fiscal year was published and submitted on time (as opposed to the most recent survey findings),” he said. “And the government revamped its website to make it more friendly and reliable.”
Since then, HakiElimu has held discussions with government officials to include more details in the budget; improve public participation; revive the annual expenditure review by civil society organizations, public partners, and the government; and publish a mid-year and year-end report.
“In some cases, the documents are produced, but they don’t meet the (survey’s) standards, so they have agreed to improve them and make them qualify under the survey’s methodology,” Boniventura said.
Important work remains to uplift women farmers - and the country
For Anna, much work remains to be done. She continues to advocate for budget increases in agriculture in the land ministry. She says 10 percent of the government budget is earmarked to be allocated to the agricultural sector, but it is not happening. “We have been told that the agriculture budget has been increased from TZS $257 billion ($109 million US) to TZS $957 billion ($408 million), but it has not reached us. We have only seen 2 percent, not 10.”
Anna is excited about the change in her government’s leadership and believes it will go a long way to change the country’s customs to match the legal system. “Having a woman president, now the community has slowly started to change their minds and see that women can be leaders and work like men,” she said.
She believes that with the new president, PELUM’s efforts, as well as the work of other civil society organizations, true equality between women and men in Tanzania is now an achievable goal.
“My mother believed that one day the traditions would change. I remember one day she said to me, “Anna, I don’t want you growing up in the same situation like I did. I hope one day you will stand for yourself and the other women out there.”
As Anna continues her advocacy for Tanzanian women, she is living proof that her mother’s dreams have already come true.