The Importance of Gender Empowerment through Education and Opportunities

One of the many interlinked issues that COCO is working to alleviate is gender inequality. Such discrimination is often deeply ingrained into community life. Many members, without proper education and knowledge, fail to understand the positive impact women can have on society. There have, unfortunately, been some abhorrent stories about the treatment of women in parts of East Africa, particularly in isolated communities characterized by poverty and lack of opportunity. The main factors that contribute to reduced female societal inclusion are lack of formal education (24%), teenage pregnancies (27%), violence against women and girls (40% physical and 17% sexual), female genital mutilation (10%) and HIV/AIDS, which affects 5.8% of women.

The education of girls is an effective way to deal with these problems. COCO believes that every child, regardless of their race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor should have access to good quality education. Educating a girl improves self-reliance and increases autonomy and bargaining power within households and communities. Female empowerment can be a catalyst for change in rural communities, many of which are tied into traditional ways of thinking that hold back development and limit trust and social capital. The World Bank and economists alike have long understood the importance of female empowerment in alleviating poverty and raising the prosperity of local communities.

Malaika has faced extra challenges because of her gender. However, she feels that empowering women with leadership roles is the best way to change social attitudes and encourage them to aim high

Lack of female teachers is a continuous problem, reinforcing male dominance in public services. However, many teachers and community leaders we work with are female. Julianna is head of Kimamba CBO and responsible for overseeing all of the projects in the group, including the running of Litisha nursery, community farm, beekeeping and small loans. Meanwhile, Malaika is Director of the Kids are Kings Nursery in Songea, Tanzania. The school teaches children in English and offers scholarships to those who are unable to access government nurseries locally or to afford nursery fees. She, however, has faced significant challenges because of her gender.

“Many people in the community have said that the nursery and I could not succeed because I am a woman. We offer classes at a lower cost than other private nurseries and schools in the area however some people would still rather send their children to schools that they struggle to afford. They do not have the confidence that an organization run by a woman could provide the quality of education for their children.” “Women hold many roles in Tanzanian life and the expectations on them are very high, yet they often do not get the recognition that they deserve. If given the chance to pursue their goals in life women would do many great things.”