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Women championing marine conservation in Tanzania


Women face inequalities in various fields of endeavour such as politics, business and education. Natural resource use and management is no exception as shown by various studies around the world including in Tanzania’s coastal communities. Yet women play crucial roles in the fisheries industry, make half the population and can be a force for good.

Women collecting fish , Mafia island. © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWFWomen collecting fish , Mafia island. © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWF

Our RUMAKI programme recognises that women are generally more vulnerable. The effects of climate change, economic disadvantage, lack of education and skills make it more difficult for them. We have therefore been working with women in coastal Tanzania so they are actively participating to narrow gender imbalances and make an impact on marine conservation. Our project area is known for its productive fisheries but is also the poorest, with the lowest education, health, and transport resources in Tanzania.

Business development and skills training

We have invested in the development and diversification of community members’ skills, majority of whom are women who depend on fisheries and marine resources for their livelihoods.

Although the harvesting sector of fisheries industry is largely dominated by men, women are usually the majority of workers in fisheries service and post-harvest sectors. Through beekeeping, seaweed farming, other business growth and many more trainings, women have been capacitated to diversify their skill-set: reducing their pressure on fisheries, expanding their market, demand, and livelihood-base and ultimately leading their communities to effective sustainable use and management of their shared marine and fisheries resources.

Education- the Mafia Girls Scholarship

Another initiative that has lent its support to young women and girls is the Mafia Girls Scholarship programme. This has been a direct effort to mitigate education discrepancies between young girls and boys in Mafia Island. Mafia is home to about 50,000 people and a hotspot for whale sharks with thriving tourism and fisheries industries yet there is little visible and supported involvement of women in decisions made about natural resource use and management. To date, the programme has supported – by way of tuition fees, provision of textbooks, transportation, and associated costs – a total of 53 girls through secondary education, and in some cases, into higher education systems like University and college. The scholarship programme is set to position young women and girls well to participate in and lead decisions that affects them and their environment.

Two recipients of the Mafia-Girls-Scholarship from-Kitomondo-Secondary-School-Mafia © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWFTwo recipients of the Mafia-Girls-Scholarship from-Kitomondo-Secondary-School-Mafia © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWF

Financial inclusion through VICOBAs

We have also established 146 village community banks (VICOBA) and provided support to them by means of mentorship, training, and monitoring. These VICOBAs have enhanced livelihoods of communities through access to savings and credit schemes, many of whom are women. They borrow capital funds to start small businesses, send their children to schools, invest in improved fishing/agricultural gear and ultimately better their personal and family’s lives. This has in turn has reduced the crippling pressure to fisheries and other marine resources.

Women in a VICOBA group © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWFWomen in a VICOBA group © Gaudensia Kalabamu WWF

In light of the recent Paris Agreement, women’s active participation and contribution in decisions about conservation is crucial for sustainable development. We applaud these women for their bold actions in the fight against climate change. #TogetherPossible

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