Friday, 21 December 2012

Women Farmers in Tanzania - I'm a farmer, get me out of there!

Women farmers at the Maisha Plus Village teach youngsters from the city how to grow and prepare their food/Sven Torfinn
I spent a few days in a typical African village in Tanzania with thatched huts, water well, goats and scrawny chickens scurrying about, but this village was actually built from scratch at a secret location in the Pawni region. It was the set for a Big Brother-type show organized by the international development charity Oxfam and the popular Tanzanian reality TV show Maisha Plus. Fourteen women who farm small plots of land in rural Tanzania and 26 youths from the cities competed for the titles of "Mama Shujaa Wa Chakula" (woman food hero) and youth food hero.
The idea was to give young contestants and millions of viewers a taste of what women in Africa go through to put food on the table with limited resources and in the face of enormous challenges. It was also a rare opportunity to celebrate them, put farming and gender issues on the agenda and force politicians to listen.

Here is a short blog post I've written for the Economist:

The EconomistFarming in Tanzania

I'm a farmer, get me out of here

Dec 18th 2012, 9:57 by V.M. | DAR ES SALAAM

STARS of most reality television shows spend their time nibbling earwigs, sunbathing and bickering. Those taking part in a Big Brother-style show recently broadcast in Tanzania, however, had a more productive experience.

Fourteen farmers, all women, and 26 urban youngsters were thrown together in a specially constructed village under near 24-hour TV surveillance. The women set daily tasks from their own lives—growing vegetables, looking after cows or fetching water—which the teenagers had to complete in order to survive. The farmers were given farming tips and got to talk to politicians and policy-makers in the "diary room".

In Tanzania, as in many African countries, women produce much of the food that feeds their people, but few own their land. "Women are treated as tractors, but they have to treat their husbands like angels," said one of the contestants.

The Women Food Heroes competition, run by Oxfam and "Maisha Plus", a popular Tanzanian reality TV show, gave the young contestants and its viewers a taste of what women in Tanzania endure to put food on the table. It was a rare opportunity to promote women’s voices and celebrate their contribution, says Mwanahamisi Salimu of Oxfam. It was also a chance to push for them to have access to the same kind of support and rights already available to men farmers, she continues. It showed that small-scale agriculture is a sustainable way of feeding the country.

Broadcast nightly on the biggest national network and promoted on social media, radio and newspapers, the programme reached more than half the population. In the countryside, people gathered in community centres to watch it. Its popularity has forced politicians to talk about farming, a subject about which they are usually fairly quiet.

The winner, Sister Martha Mwasu Waziri from Dodoma, who won $6,300 to buy farming equipment, says she wants to turn her farm—which she built on a scrap of wasteland—into a demonstration farm to show others what they can achieve. "I learned so much here and that is more important to me than winning the competition," says Mary Kamwaka Maumbi, another finalist. "I’ve learned how to do a crop calendar, when to start breeding my pigs and when to inoculate them, how to get my produce to the market and what to do with my money.  I’ll put everything into practice and will show others how to do it.  It will have an impact on my whole village."

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Women Connect, Build Peace

Here is a great initiative that brings together women from Arab, Muslim and Western communities around the world to help breaking down cultural and religious stereotypes and misunderstandings.

The Connection Point Dialogue was launched a year ago by Peace X Peace, a global women’s peacebuilding network, to counter the alarming rise in Islamophobia.

It is a forum for open, informal, real-time communication that can humanize distant peoples and expand worldviews.  The first phase was a blog where women from all over the world could write, ask questions, debate and learn about one another. The second phase uses videoconferencing to further the cross-cultural exchanges.

Stephanie Knox Cubbon, one of the program’s facilitators, says:  "Though we come from different places, we share many challenges and issues, and together we can learn strategies to overcome these challenges. The Connection Point Dialogue allows women not only to examine these challenges, but to brainstorm ways to take collective action to make the world more peaceful for today's increasingly globalized world, a program like this is needed now more than ever."

Founded in 2002, Peace X Peace (pronounce Peace by Peace) involves 20,000 women in 125 countries.  Their programs promote gender equity and peacebuilding through leadership development, mentorship, public policy and intercultural dialogue. They are great! Read more about them here and look for their posts on my blogroll. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Kampala Convention – Africa takes the lead to help IDPs

IDPs in a DRC camp/IDMC- Nicolas Postal

Across the world, millions of people are forced to flee their homes because of war, natural disasters and other reasons, but have not crossed an internationally recognised border: they are internally displace people (IDPs). As such, they are not refugees and don’t have any special status under international law.

But today, Africa has made global history by pioneering a ground-breaking new legal framework to protect and assist them.  The Kampala Convention, which came into force today (6th December 2012), is a tool designed by Africa for Africans, which binds governments to provide legal protection for the rights and well-being of those forced to flee inside their home countries due to conflict, violence, natural disasters or development projects.

Almost 40 per cent of the all the people worldwide who have been displaced within their own country as a result of conflict or violence live in Africa. The continent is home to 9.8 million people displaced by conflict – almost four times the number of refugees in the region. When those forced from their homes by other events, such as natural disasters are included, this figure is even higher.
The Kampala Convention is an innovative and comprehensive framework that seeks to address the needs of internally displaced people and the communities that take them in, and to help them find solutions to reestablish their lives. Among measures national authorities must take under the Kampala Convention are:
• gathering data on and identify IDPs to understand where they are and what they need.
• providing personal ID documents.
• tracing family members and help to reunite them
• consult with IDPs in decisions related to their needs

The reality is that right now, people are forced to flee their homes for a whole host of causes, from natural disasters such as floods and droughts, forced evictions because of development projects such as dam building or logging projects, as well as war, conflict and violence,’’ said Kim Mancini, Senior Training and Legal Officer at the Internal DisplacementMonitoring Centre (IDMC). ‘’The Kampala Convention is comprehensive in that it addresses the multiple causes of displacement, so this signals an important step towards addressing the plight of millions of Africans who are uprooted from their homes.’’
"While recognising the responsibility on states and enabling IDPs to claim their rights is a huge achievement, and one which we hope will encourage other world leaders to follow suit, this is a beginning, not an end,” says Sebastían Albuja, Head of the Africa Department at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre(IDMC). “The convention will not in itself create significant concrete change for internally displaced people until measures are taken by the 15 countries currently legally bound by the convention to ensure that it is reflected in their national legislation and made into a concrete reality.’’
 The Convention was actually adopted by the African Union (AU) on 23 October 2009. But it only came into force today, 30 days after Swaziland became the 15th country to ratify it, pushing the Convention over the threshold necessary for it to become legally binding.
 The countries which have ratified the Kampala Convention are:
 Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and most recently, Swaziland. 

While 15 countries are now legally bound by the convention, 37 of the 53 countries in the AU have signed it, which means that they are committed to its content, but they are not legally bound by it. "The countries who have not yet adopted the convention must do so, as a legal framework is the very basis of ensuring the rights and well-being of people forced to flee inside their home country’’ says Albuja.