I have made friends, with a mate I expect to be with for a period worth every effort. A friend who will show me realities far away from Dar es salaam’s numbers and statistics.
A time away from the constructions and the unfolding sophistication that comes with city life.
I will make all the efforts to understand this friend, the values she stands for and how she manages of fails to give a clear livelihood for it sons and daughters.
That friend is an expansive area on the west of this country- Shinyanga region.
I find this imminent relationship so important in the same period when the government is undertaking the second phase of the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, MKUKUTA, a poverty eradication action plan formed years earlier than the start of the new millennium.
For MKUKUTA, the general targets set at the country level, could in fact have been more go-getting than the Millennium Development Goals set at the start of the new millennium, even as holes have been punched through their level of impact so far at the highest level.
Take poverty, for instance. In the early 1990s, over 60 per cent of people were said to be living below the poverty line of $1 a day. Today that figure has substantially moved to 36 per cent, putting roughly 14.4 million Tanzanians below the poverty line. With the MDG target of halving poverty levels, between 1992 and 2015, it is expected that the country can hit the mark within the range of 20 per cent and something or thereabouts in the next 5 years. However, some analysts have noted that statistics do not give a genuine picture. That figures do not tell the whole story. That is what I intend to unravel.
Infact, as Tanzania’s estimated 40 million people largely depend on agriculture as the backbone of the economy, it is important that the sector gets to be allocated more than 10 per cent of the national budget. That is the interesting staff I expect to have a date with, with anticipation that has already made me think of my upcoming meetings halfway into my few first meetings with my first villages.
With literacy levels among females being at 67 percent and males – 84 percent, access to employment opportunities between the two genders is still unbalanced. Will that give me a hint on how rural life intends to address this imbalance?
Also, the country’s recent economic growth has been driven by the financial, construction and services industries, all sectors that mostly service the urban areas and relatively little growth has been seen in the agriculture sector, where more than two thirds of the population derive a livelihood.
The irony in -between, is that only 5 percent of State budget goes to Education and Agriculture ,putting some 16.5 million, which is 76.9 percent of women living in rural areas and 10 million (60 percent) of women in absolute poverty.
This will, as a consequence make this year’s election important as agriculture is one area of the national political life that affects the vast majority of our citizens and may play out big come October.
Government records show that the employment trends between 1991-2006 indicate unemployment rate slightly dropped for both women (by 1.6 percent) and men (by 0.9 percent) ,meaning that there was a probable increase in number of women accessing employment .
However, since 1991 more women compared to men were not in formal employment (in Govt, Parastatals and Private Formal). Yet, majority of women are engaged in Private Informal Sector and Traditional Agriculture/Subsistence Farming, and Housework-sectors that are characterized by having poor working conditions, low income gains/unpaid work.
As such, there have been a marginal increased number of women employed in the formal sector (Govt, Parastatal and Private formal) between 1991 and 2006; thus indicating positive trends in women access to formal employment.
More women compared to men are overrepresented in the agriculture sector, where in 1991 it was 54.1 percent of the women against 45.9 percent for men.
In 2006, it was 83 percent for women and 17 percent for men; a huge difference that works in the females’ disadvantage.
More and more rural women are being relegated to the wretched of the earth because their education does not allow them to compete.
As we head towards elections therefore, the vulnerable but resilient women of rural areas could hit back and it has more to do with their economic condition than the need for changes.
For the female aspirants, a culture of bullying and “finger-pointing” at campaign time had in earlier years put women off politics, leaving them largely absent from the election and as a consequence, in government.
With the October elections, it will be interesting to see firsthand how rural people hold their aspirants accountable. To challenge them about their agenda for the country/constituencies: What is their policy on education and health? What is their policy on inflation and interest rates, on housing, power and infrastructure? How do they plan to combat corruption, incompetence and apathy in all sectors?
And, in little semantics, how will they practically empower and transform a poor small scale farmer to earn from his or her sweat fairly.
I want to see, first hand, how rural people question how the aspirants present themselves as true champions of the interests of key groups within the country’s political life, inclusively.
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