Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Is this a woman's world? Gender equality in Tanzania

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ImageLet's think together:Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate an evidence-based debate by sharing data from recent official surveys and ask you a few questions. These posts are also published in the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Tanzanian families have been doing things differently of late. More of them have been sending their daughters to primary school and more women have become heads of families with increasing financial responsibilities. Increasingly too, more women are involved in the political arena today.  These trends can also be found in most countries in the world but they are especially visible in Tanzania as reflected by the following statistics.

  • Girl's primary school attendance increased from 60 per cent to over 83 per cent between 2000/2001 and 2010/2011.
  • Women today own 47 per cent of non-agricultural household enterprises in the country.
  • More than a third of Parliamentary seats are occupied by women – at par with Uganda (35 per cent) and far ahead of Kenya (9.8 per cent.)
  • Women count for 35 per cent of wage employment in the country.

This is good news because women's empowerment is beneficial for a country's quest for prosperity. Indeed, when women have a say in household and political decisions, have better access to education, and have access to better earning opportunities this generally results in healthier and better educated children.Yet, many Tanzanian women still suffer from discrimination and its effects compared to men:

  • While about 41 per cent of girls transition to secondary school education, only 3 per cent complete the cycle.
  • Salaries paid to women are on average 63 per cent lower than those paid to men. 
  • When women own businesses, they make 2.4 times less profit than men.
  • Women represent only 10 per cent of the political elite from the district level and below.
  • In 2010, 33  per cent of Tanzanian women reported they had been subjected to physical domestic violence (in the previous 12 months)  compared to 25.1 per cent in Kenya and 14.5 per cent in Malawi.

The fate of women in Tanzania raises some questions:

  • Should promoting gender equality be a priority for the Tanzanian government?
  • Should specific programmes be implemented to support businesses owned by women? 
  • What is contributing to the high incidence of gender violence in Tanzania?
  • Should policies to encourage girls’ secondary school enrolment be put in place, for example, providing financial incentives to families?
  • What can be done to increase the participation of women in local politics?

Note: The statistics are extracted from the National Panel Surveys (2008/2009 and 2010/2011), the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, the Uwezo 2011 report and the World's Women 2010 report. All are publicly available.


Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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