Source: All Africa
TANZANIA in general and Zanzibar in particular approved liberal economic policy in the 1980s as its economic driving force and ended decades of state-controlled economy.

The debate whether it was the best road to follow is well known. However, there are visible economic challenges facing marginalized groups, including women in this new economic drive especially in Micheweni and Wete of Pemba north. The 2009/2010 House Budget Survey (HBS) 2009/2010 mentioned Micheweni and Wete as the poorest districts in Pemba with 74.5 per cent and 61.8 per cent respectively of their people living below the poverty line.

The HBS report generally stated that Wete and Micheweni, combined had 30 per cent of the poor people in Zanzibar in 2010. The survey also indicated that women are double disadvantaged. This scenario, no doubt, presents the harsh consequences faced by women, thus, calling for redress in order to strike the balance of power between the rural and urban, men and women and other groups at the island.

In recent years, Zanzibar has seen some social economic interventions to these women, thanks to the contributions of both state and non state actors. This was the case of European Union, Care International, UN Women formerly UNIFEM, Savings and Credit Association (PESACA), Action Aid, Save the Children and Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA).

A section of women benefitted with trainings such as; economics, saving and loan, business skills, selection planning and management, valued added trainings, market skills and business links. The trainings have helped to bring hope to the lives of poor women by developing interests to invest in income generating activities as opposed to their traditional role of producing only for domestic consumption.

Currently women have the ability to form groups and recently we have seen some of them joined force to sell their products outside their areas through Women Entrepreneurship and Livelihood skills. This has enabled women to reach a number of potential buyers including tourists booking at hotels of Mantarif and Swahili Divers in Micheweni and Fundu Lagoon in Micheweni as well as in local shops and vegetable market of Wete, Micheweni and Chake Chake.

"We only produced items for our own domestic market under low price and quantity. Many of these produce were rotting before our eyes due to limited purchasing power of our people", says Nasra Mahmood, a local handbags designers in an interview in Pemba recently. Nassra who sold all of her three sample handbags to Fundu Lagoon hotel, at 15,000/- each, says meeting reliable buyers who would express interest in their products is a challenge.

She joins her colleagues in pressing for more reliable markets for their produce. Mantarif resort Manager, Mr Juma Bakari Mohammed, while receiving women and their items did not hide his excitement. He says for the two years as a manager in the hotel, he has been looking for locallymade products but the efforts proved to be difficult. He says the hotel was ready to receive women products and sell them to their guests who come from various parts of the world.

"We will also arrange domestic tours for the tourists to visit the women groups for them to see how these products are made, which will also increase income of the women groups. Mr Bakari Mohammed was quick to note the challenges facing women groups. Transportation is a major challenge because the hotels which express interests to buy women produce are located as far as 30 kilometres away from their homes.

There are no commuter buses linking women's rural settings with the hotels. "In the light of this, there is need to try to fill the distance gap by launching special market centres for women products within rural communities," he observes. The government must also work to fill the poverty gap by working around the clock to improve the quality of women products which include hand bags, spice soaps, tailoring and vegetables, he says, adding: "The public has the responsibility to support the women whose poverty and low status are due to historical reasons that have left them marginalized for years."

On the other hand, Zanzibar as part of the United Republic of Tanzania, has adopted numerous international and domestic protocols on the rights of women which needs to be complied with. In order for women to enjoy the benefit of business, the resource and market business should be all made accessible to women entrepreneurs.

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