* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Women’s rights advocates from Tanzania’s civil society and the government sector met in Dar es Salaam last week to explore how the soon to be adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be leveraged to support the economic and social empowerment of women across Tanzania. The SDGs are currently under discussion at the United Nations and will be the roadmap and framework to guide global development efforts for the next 15 years.
The workshop, organized by Landesa and ActionAid Tanzania is one of a series of such convenings aimed at ensuring civil society organizations working on women’s issues are participating in the development and implementation of the SDGs, and follows similar gatherings in Brazil and India.
Honestus Michael, Counsel for the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements, presented on the history of land in the country and the ways in which the customary and formal systems have historically disadvantaged women. Andrew Aloyce, Chief Economist of the President’s Office, Planning Commission, recommended paths for civil society’s engagement with the upcoming implementation processes. Mr. Aloyce noted that this is an important time for collaboration between civil society and government, as Tanzania is in the process of reviewing and developing a new five-year development strategy as well as a new poverty alleviation strategy this year, and will seek to incorporate the SDGs into both.
Usu Mallya, a senior advisor from UN Women, strongly encouraged civil society representatives to join the current discussions around national indicators, which are the data points that will be used to measure progress towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets. She highlighted the critical need to focus on challenges for rural women, including the need for more secure land rights, explaining that, “Poverty has a rural, female face, so you cannot address poverty without specifically addressing rural issues and the feminization of poverty.” Participants agreed that prioritizing rural women’s issues is a fundamental necessity for the alleviation of poverty in Tanzania and across the African continent.
Key takeaways from the meeting:
- With 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs cover almost every development issue imaginable, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity. As the SDGs are linked to Tanzania’s ongoing national processes, including the development of new poverty strategies, short- and medium-term development plans, and a new constitution, civil society must help guide the government as it prioritizes the issues and begins planning for implementation. This is a unique window of opportunity in Tanzania to embed these issues in the government’s new priorities, programs, and laws.
- Communication between government and civil society in Tanzania has often been strained, but increased collaboration is necessary for the effective implementation of the SDGs. Each side brings a different, and needed, perspective to the conversation. There should be more opportunities for representatives of government and civil society to have open, direct conversations with each other and workshops like last week’s are an important venue for this type of engagement.
- The monitoring and accountability framework will make or break the SDGs, so it must be developed carefully and go beyond just national governments – accountability measures must also look at regional and global bodies, agreements and programs, which impact the ability of national governments to fulfill their commitments.
- Significant resources must be set aside at the global and national levels to achieve the gender equality goals of the SDGs. Words alone are not enough – gender issues must be mainstreamed across all programs, with dedicated resources for implementation, and budget planning in all sectors must be gender responsive.
At the conclusion of the meeting, there was a clear consensus that Tanzanian CSOs must collaborate in order to make their voices, and those of the rural women they serve, heard at the national level. This workshop was just the first step – participants intend to work together in the coming months to ensure that women’s rights to land and property, often their most important economic asset, are prioritized by the government, with the long-term goal of making gender equality a reality in Tanzania.