Barriers can be seen as physical obstacles or circumstances preventing movements or access. While many single mothers, divorcees, and widows in Tanzania face barriers due to societal stigmas. Due to stigma and prejudice, many women are subjugated to discrimination affecting access and opportunities. Nonetheless, their determination remains immovable. Creating a space for women in Tanzania, WellShare partners with government officials to combat disparities through education and outreach.
The Tanzania Survive and Thrive group (STG) was created to assist women of all backgrounds and marital statuses through health education and economic opportunities. Actively, there are 247 members with a community member impact on 76% of the female population.
One component of this program involves early education on prenatal health care to increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy. The group is led by community health workers and traditional birth attendants. Local volunteers who speak the same language and share the same cultural awareness are utilized to strengthen the relationship. Training topics included hands-on experience with neonatal resuscitators to support future newborns having difficulty breathing.
Another critical approach in aiding Tanzania women involves Village Community Banking (VICOBA). The microfinancing program provides low-income women a chance to take off with their businesses by building capital through a community-based banking system. A total of 25-50 women are necessary to start community banking which consists of combining their savings. A typical start-up fund generates about $576 polled together in the first year. After 5 years, communities have created loan pools greater than $10,000. From there, they will be able to enter the formal banking system.
“I am so happy I can now afford to provide my family with the food and medicine they need to be healthy. I am proud of my work, my business, and everything I have learned and accomplished with the help of this micro-savings group,” says Brenda, a participant from the program. She took out a loan of 50,000 TZ shillings (about $23) to purchase sewing materials and start her own sewing shop. She sold dresses to women in Mwasinasi and the surrounding villages, and now has a steady income to support her family.
From April to June of 2021, young mothers and women utilized iPads provided by 50 CHWs to learn about economic empowerment and money management. The women participated monthly in lessons about savings and loans on top of their weekly meetings.
In response to COVID-19, STG and VICOBA participants furthered their entrepreneurial skills by selling “Corona Soap.” This provided access to soap for better hand hygiene practices. Expanding outreach, WellShare promoted oral education on COVID-19, maternal and children health, and HPV vaccinations with the Bariadi Council team.
Since joining STG, Felista, a 40-year young single mother with 9 children, was able to become the 5th largest producer of cakes and snacks in rural Tanzania. She has gone on to supply her cakes to hotels, making masks and soaps to distribute during the pandemic, and furthering the importance of creating community.
WellShare celebrates the success of empowered women and minimizing the gap of disparities. For 2021, WellShare hopes to expand to 20 new and existing STG/VICOBA groups, expand business opportunities, increase COVID-19 response and bring more stories from Tanzania to share.