Source: Tanzania Daily News
IF there are still people who doubt the old adage that; when you empower a woman, you empower the family; it is obvious that they have never visited WEZA families in Zanzibar.

WEZA families have benefited and improved the quality of their lives from the savings they make and loans they can access. WEZA is the acronym of Women Empowerment in Zanzibar which started in 2008 focusing on Unguja South and Pemba North.

Salim Abdalla, husband to Rahma Salim who is member of WEZA in Ole village in Pemba Wete district, is a grateful beneficiary.

"I lost hope with life when my shop collapsed and I fell sick only to find that I was HIV positive. The stigmatisation from the community was so bad I had no will to live," Salim said.

Salim is now a different person. He lives his life to the fullest after his wife took a loan of 400,000/-, in May 2009. Salim's wife gave him 200,000/- to revive his shop and restock it with items like soap, sugar, cooking oil, grains and other foodstuffs. The shop turned into the community one stop centre attracting villagers to shop for their basic needs.

Presently, he makes a profit of between 8,000/- and 10,000/- a day and has already paid back his supportive wife in April, 2010, within the loan procedures time frame. According to the group's regulations, a member is supposed to repay the loan within three months or risking the seizure of her weekly shares along with her four sureties.

From the support I got I decided to join WEZA. Salim considers the WEZA project a life saviour. His wife, Rahma Salim, lost no time in encouraging men to change their attitude of not being open with their wives who are struggling to raise the economic status of their families.

She said many capable women wanted to start income generating activities so as to get themselves and their families out of poverty but their husbands did not trust them and are still attached to conservative ideas that women were meant to stay at home. "Many of the men think that if a woman starts a business outside her home, then she will not be faithful to her husband", she said.

Another example is Saada Saleh Hamad, a member, from Kiungoni in Wete district of Pemba who gave 100,000/- to her husband to improve his seaweed project. She said that from the profit the husband made they built their residential house.

Jaria Hamad Masoud of Mtambwe village in Pemba, Wete district gave 300,000/- to her husband to open a pharmacy. So far, the drug store is progressing well. "I took a loan from my group for my husband in order to open a business for our family. I am happy to say the business is going on well", she said.

In the past, it has been reported that some husbands did not want their wives to join the WEZA project. However, the situation is slowly changing and more men are actually encouraging their wives to join WEZA. Other men want to become members. Speaking numbers, there are more women in Zanzibar than men, but they are poorer as their spouses discourage them from taking up income generating activities, an active part in politics and obtaining an education.

According to the 2009/2010 House Budget Survey, 44.4 per cent of the Zanzibar's population live below the basic need poverty line with Micheweni and Wete Pemba heading the list accounting for 74.5 per cent and 61.8 per cent respectively. Women in the report are mentioned to be doubly hit by poverty. Indeed it is about time to give women opportunities and in order to wipe out the feminine face of poverty. This will in turn promote the well-being of the families, communities and the nation at large.

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