From Tanzania to Algeria, rural women are taking charge of their lives and livelihoods

Date: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Participants in the South–South learning trip and knowledge exchange facilitated by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope.
Participants in the South–South learning trip and knowledge exchange facilitated by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope.

Nuongipa Sungare sprays some fresh milk around the cattle pen. It’s a Maasai tradition of thanking the universe for providing water and pasture for her livestock and for keeping them safe. For the Maasai, a semi-nomadic ethnic group, livestock is not only about their livelihood, but also integral to their culture and customs.

Five years ago, Sungare, a mother of nine, couldn’t imagine that she would go from struggling to make a living by selling milk from two goats owned by her family, to becoming the owner of a herd of sheep.

Sungare is one of the 18 Maasai women who left their homes in Leparkashi to stay at a livestock homestead or boma established in Engaresero village by a women-led organization, the Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), through a project supported by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality (FGE).

The project challenges social norms and customs that have traditionally denied women the right to own livestock and has succeeded in obtaining land concessions and women’s livestock ownership rights. Today, Maasai women running the four bomas collectively own 210 sheep, 85 cows and 45 goats, and more than 1,500 women have joined the project over its duration.

8,000 kilometers northwest, in Bordj Bou Arreridj, Algerian women in a similarly rural and remote region face the same challenges and earn a living through cheese cultivation and beekeeping as part of an FGE-supported project run by El-Ghaith Association.

A recently organized learning visit brought El-Ghaith and PWC together to share strategies, insights and experiences. In the world of international development, such exchanges are termed “South–South cooperation”—exchange of ideas, experiences, and opportunities between entrepreneurs, communities, and experts from the Global South.

FGE Portfolio Manager for the Arab States, Rana El-Houjeiri, elaborates: “It enabled both organizations to monitor and analyse the impact of their projects on the quality of lives of women in Tanzania and Algeria, consulting each other on alternatives and progress in their livelihoods systems and value chains.”

UN Women staff members interact with representatives of the two civil society organizations that participated in the South–South initiative addressing the improvement of rural women’s livelihoods. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope.
UN Women staff members interact with representatives of the two civil society organizations that participated in the South–South initiative addressing the improvement of rural women’s livelihoods. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope.

Participants from Algeria shared their experience in acquiring and using a milk-processing plant to produce goat cheese, while the women from Tanzania explained how to raise hardier, drought-resistant sheep. The group compared their honey production: in Algeria, women export, while in Tanzania they sell to tourists visiting the region. El-Ghaith Association also spoke about how their beneficiaries process wool to produce modern, lighter, and more attractive carpets for the local markets.

Maanda Ngoitiko, head of PWC, emphasized the need for both organizations to scale up income diversification: “We would like to ensure that women in a remote area such as Ngorongoro have a say in the management and utilization of land, in addition to being able to benefit from other abundant natural resources. I believe the women can also tap into the tourism sector, which presents a lot of business opportunities.”

Today, the exchange of knowledge, expertise and strategies between civil society organizations and other development partners is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. As the world prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, assess the progress, and renew efforts to fulfil the gender equality agenda, South–South cooperation is the gateway to ensuring inclusive development.