TGNP Mtandao, a non-governmental organization which promotes gender equality and social justice, says the festival will be an open forum where women rights activists will come together to share experiences.
It says this would also ensure they share knowledge and celebrate achievements and assess the challenges facing women and other marginalized groups.
TGNP Mtandao Executive Director Lilian Liundi says the annual event alternates between national and district levels, providing an opportunity for networking and coalition-building, capacity strengthening, enhancing the contribution of women and marginalized groups to public debates and planning collectively for social change.
“The festival will provide an opportunity to enhance the participants’ capacity at Kishapu district level to organize and demand transformative approaches to governance and decision-making on policies,” she said. It will also ensure that the resources are allocated to promote gender equity, women empowerment, and social transformation.
The first such national gender festival kicked off in 1996 with a bang, which continued to grow along with demands for taking the festival to local communities.
These festivals aim at mobilizing both women and men in the production of food crops for food security and reducing the burden of unpaid work to women, she said.
It is undisputed that women are the most affected by climate change ravages in most parts of this country, hence making it indispensable for actors, especially the government, to empower women farmers with modern agricultural technology.
This will enable them to escape the threats of decreased production in drought seasons to guarantee the availability of adequate food and sustainable livelihoods for households which depend on farming.
This also includes increasing microfinance credit to women small-scale farmers who, though they seem insignificant, have a bigger contribution to household and national economies at large.
Since its establishment in 2012, Kishapu knowledge Centre has been at the forefront in grassroot organizing for transformative feminist movement building at the local level.Its district network is named Mtandao wa Nyuki, meaning bees’ network, which is made up of 7 knowledge centres (Ukenyenge, Songwa, Kishapu, Maganzo, Mwaweja, Mwadui Luhumbo and Binambiu).
As the district makes it a movement building learning hub, picking it therefore as a Gender Forum host will provide room for other knowledge centres to learn how to strengthen collective organising and grassroot advocacy beyond 25 years of TGNP’s existence.
It should be recalled that Tanzania is implementing its second Five-Year Development Plan, 2016/17 to 2020/21 (FYDP II), which encourages sustained growth based on private sector development, with the objective of becoming a middle-income country with a varied and semi industrialized economy.
This goes hand in hand with the implementation of global Sustainable Development Goal number two, which targets to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, andpromote sustainable agriculture.
Agriculture is one of TGNP Mtandao’s priority sectors whereby the focus is to advocate increased access to land and ownership of land for women, increased access and timely availability of agricultural inputs and implements for women.
The focus is also on increased women’s access to markets and market information, increased women’s access to cheap agricultural loans, access to clean and safe water for human consumption and irrigation activities, and increased women participation in decision-making and processes in the agricultural sector/structures.
The agricultural sector has the potential to transform Tanzania as the country has, among other things, approximately 30 million hectares of underutilized arable land for agricultural production, where both rain-fed and irrigation agriculture can take place.
However, with increasing climatic changes, irrigation is seen as a way forward for revolutionizing the agricultural sector. Characteristics of soil and weather allow growth of a variety of agricultural crops in the country. For example, cash crops such as coffee and food crops such as sorghum can grow in many regions of the country.
In view of that, investing in agriculture will lead to greater yields, improved quality and efficient output. Smallholder farmers, mainly women, engage in subsistence agriculture and tend to operate on an average of 0.9 to 3.0 ha using 80% – 90% of agricultural land in the country.
The government encourages women groups to unite and form cooperatives as a golden bullet solution to women’s challenges in agriculture. Poor investments in agriculture are contrary to the government’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Tanzanian government and the rest of the world’s countries promised to “devote resources to developing rural areas and sustainable agriculture and fisheries, supporting smallholder farmers, especially women farmers, herders and fishers in developing countries, particularly least developed countries.”
Tanzania cannot attain SDG 2 if smallholder female farmers continue to be ignored. The government has been struggling to double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers.
Such groups are helped to access land, productive resources, inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
The government also needs to empower women as per SDG 5 because smallholder female farmers do not own what they produce in agriculture because household decisions are often made by their male spouses. Goal 5 of SDGs targets is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The government and other stakeholders, among other things, need to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
The overarching objective of the festival is to reflect on the progress of the agenda of social inclusion in national development processes within the era of industrialized Tanzania, anchoring on the issues of women rights, dignity, economic empowerment and sustainable development.
This year’s Gender Festival’s specific objectives are to reflect on the previous Gender Festival as TGNP commemorates 25 years, and also link the wider theme of economic justice and resource allocation in agriculture in Tanzania to the situation in Kishapu.
The Gender Festival celebrates the power of TGNP Mtandao’s numbers and broadens and strengthens alliances for transformative feminist movement building through the knowledge centre.
It will be remembered that during that time it was proposed that district level Gender Festivals be introduced to facilitate broader grassroots participation to strengthen and ground the transformative movement.
This year’s event in Kishapu is partly organized in response to demands raised by networks and groups at the local level during the national Gender Festival of 2005 in order to continue the debate on key feminist issues that emerged from the Gender Festival 2009.
For those who have followed closely this event, the Festival has alternated locations biannually between Dar es Salaam and other selected districts, and this year marks the fifth District Gender Festival, preceded with those conducted in Kisarawe, Coast (2010), Mkambarani, Morogoro (2012), Tarime, Mara (2014) and Mkambarani, Morogoro (2016).
The Gender Festival at the district level is usually organized by TGNP Mtandao in collaboration with Knowledge Centre members, Gender and Development Seminar Series (GDSS) participants, individual and activist groups, civil society organizations, community-based organizations and Local Government at the district and village levels.
The main theme for the festival is around gender, democracy and development, focusing on gender inclusiveness in modernizing agriculture and industrial transformation for sustainable development.
Kishapu district was selected because it is a semi-arid region located in the miombo woodland in the central plain, which makes it vulnerable to limited rain, hence unfavourable conditions for short-term crops, as a result experiencing food shortage.
The main reliable water source is Lake Victoria and water distribution from the lake has not reached the majority of residents in the area.
Kishapu does not stand out from the ongoing climate change challenges, which leave it with multiple challenges around sustainable agriculture and food security.
Furthermore, it was evident during Participatory Action Research this year in Kishapu that in the patriarchal society of the lake zone region, cash crop production has been in the hands of men.
This leaves women, who are the main producers of food crops on a small scale, and given their gender roles, their production cannot meet family feeding demands and income generation.