Capturing Women’s Voices: Socioeconomics and Gender-Roles in Pastoralist Households in the Ruaha Landscape, Tanzania
Mariam Nguvava; Deana Clifford; Michel Masozera; Peter Coppolillo; Harrison Sadiki; Jonna Mazet; Jon Erickson
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Livestock-Climate Change CRSP, University of California- Davis
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Abstract: Pastoralists in East Africa face a multitude of challenges relating to land ownership, environmental concerns and access to government services. These difficulties may disproportionately affect women due to traditional gender roles within pastoralist society. HALI project team members conducted an assessment of gender-roles in pastoralist households during a longitudinal survey of study households and focus group meetings in an effort to include women’s voices in socioeconomic research investigating interactions between disease and water scarcity, and to identify challenges to empowerment facing these women. Findings revealed that women’s participation in decision making in pastoralist households within the Ruaha landscape is limited to traditional socially assigned gender roles, most often child care; water collecting; animal and household husbandry; construction; food preparation; and production of milk, eggs and chickens; a finding consistent with other GL-CRSP research on gender roles and pastoralism conducted in Ethiopia and Kenya. In addition, women in Ruaha are often less likely to attend school. At the community level, women’s participation in decision making remains low, as they are often reluctant to speak freely and confidently in the presence of men and community leaders. Despite these obstacles, experiences from HALI project research suggest that women’s participation in decision-making in the study area is increasing as they are becoming active in women’s associations and small enterprises, entities that enable women to collectively voice their concerns and foster greater social and economic independence, and that should be further evaluated as potential strategies to improve development efforts focused on women and children. The authors conclude, however, that a more detailed gender assessment is warranted, as the roles, constraints and experiences of women vary, and too little is understood about the role of these women’s associations and microfinance groups.