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close this bookResources, Power and Women, Proceedings of the African and Asian Inter-regional Workshop on Strategies for Improving the Employment Conditions of Rural Women (ILO, 1985, 96 p.)
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View the documentPREFACE
View the documentACKNOWLEDGEMENT
View the documentANNEX I List of Participants
View the documentANNEX II Agenda
View the documentBACK COVER





Mr. Chairman, honourable guests, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

May I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the organisers of the Workshop for this invitation extended to me. This is a great honour and I appreciate it very much. I would also like, on behalf of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, to welcome all the distinguished delegates to our country generally, and to Arusha in particular.

For some of you, this may be the first time you have come to Tanzania and Arusha, while for others, this may be one of the many visits you have made to our country. However, to all of you, I wish to express my sincere hope that you will find your stay in Arusha both fruitful and enjoyable, and I sincerely hope that your visit will not end only in Arusha. Instead, I hope chat you will stay a bit longer so that you may explore the countryside where the majority of the women are, as well as visit the scenic beauty of our game parks. Indeed, although your programme includes a field trip to villages in and around Arusha, it might provide you with a better insight into what is happening in Tanzania if you were able to visit other areas as well.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the International Labour Organisation for their initiative towards this Workshop, and also for involving CIRDAFRICA in this most important subject. I know that this is part of the ILO's continuing effort to encourage debate, discussion and formulation of potential strategies and actions for promoting employment and income-earning opportunities of poor rural women. For only through frank discussions and exchange of our respective experiences can we, in the Third World, make strides ahead. Indeed, it is gratifying to note that over the last two years the ILO has identified as many as 50 successful initiatives in Asia and

Africa on the subject, a few of which will be presented at this Workshop as cases for review by the participants. We, in Tanzania, look forward with great anticipation to drawing lessons from those experiences.

In this connection also, I should like to use this opportunity to commend the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) for funding both the ILO programme that has led to the identification of these experiences, as and this Workshop. I sincerely hope that DANIDA will use this experience to look into the possibilities of supporting follow-up actions by CIRDAFRICA on the Workshop's findings.

I am aware that this Workshop has brought together participants from nine African countries and five Asian countries comprising high level government officials concerned with planning for rural development, representatives from employers' and workers' organisations, persons who have documented and analysed selected case studies, activists with experience of working with grass-root organisations, and representatives of intergovernmental, non-governmental and donor agencies interested in working with rural women. I am Cold also that it is the first inter-regional workshop of its kind.

The gathering as it is, a very strong contingent of distinguished people, is capable of seeking appropriate strategies and actions for promoting employment and income-earning opportunities of our poor rural women. This is indeed a crucial question on which, I hope, you will have enough time to delve in depth. To this end, I would like to use the opportunity you have given me to share with you my own thoughts on the subject - albeit very generally.

I do believe that most of you in this Workshop have good experience of the working conditions of poor rural women in your respective countries. Host probably the conditions are more or less the same, and if it is so, this will provide you with a common forum that will, in some way, facilitate your discussion. Definitely you will get an opportunity to evaluate what you have experienced and accomplished. At the same time you will have a basis on which to formulate guide-lines and strategies that could aim at improving the existing working conditions of our rural women. Mr. Chairman, it is my sincere wish that this Workshop will prove a success.

When we are intending to seek solutions to improve employment conditions of the rural women, it is logical that we should at least try to analyse their present situation. To date in most African and Asian countries the poor rural women work not by choice but by necessity for the survival of their families. Their working conditions are not favourable. Their working days are long, and they use simple Cools such as the hand hoe and the matchet. On top of all this, they have to care for large families and work outside the modern sector, they have less access than men to benefits of development. They bear the brunt of poverty and are often fully engaged in the fight for survival.

If we compare the rural woman with the urban one, it is evident that the latter is in a better position because many of her domestic needs can be obtained within her premises or purchased in the nearby market. But that is not the case for the rural woman.

But at the same time, it should not be forgotten that these conditions of our rural women have a historical origin. First, in most societies of Africa and Asia, the activities closest to home belonged to the women, while those far from home such as trading, herding and others belonged to men. With this division of labour between the sexes, the belief that a "woman's place is in the kitchen" is still dominant. Secondly, although over 80 per cent of the food production of the household was being done by women, men were considered to be more honourable while women were treated as underlings, and their contribution was given little recognition. Thirdly, social beliefs in some societies hinder women's engagement in other production roles besides that of child bearing. Therefore, it is the duty of our respective governments to educate the masses on the negative impact of such retrogressive beliefs. Beliefs which hinder the development of our people, and especially those which deny women the rights to engage in productive activities, should be globally discouraged.

Mr. Chairman, and participants, I think we all agree that women have a major role to play in development. Women today constitute about one-half of the world's population and it is believed that they also constitute one- third of the world's economically active population. Statistics show that at least 46 per cent of women of working age are in the labour force, and of this an estimated 65 per cent are to be found in the developing countries'. In Tanzania for instance, it is statistically known that nearly 51 per cent of the population are female. Thus, considering our population of nearly 20 million people, and considering the fact that about 85 per cent of our people are in the rural areas, it means that we are dealing with a population of 8.7 million people or about 4.4 million of people who can effectively participate in productive activities. This is a large number of people who can have a great impact on the prosperity of the economy if their energies are properly harnessed.

The question is, thus, what considerations do we need Co give towards this group in order to make it more productive in the economic and social development of the country? I hope you will agree with me that these hard working, shrewd and productive women can be both agents as well as beneficiaries of development. As such they are resources upon which development planners should draw. Some of the pressing problems emanate from the fact that our planners do not plan on fully engaging women in productive roles, besides the mothering one. I believe the solution of many basic problems, including the world food insufficiency, depends to a large extent on improving the productivity of all workers, including that of women. It should be remembered that women's ability to perform their domestic and mothering tasks is determined to an important degree by their broader role in socio-economic activities. For instance, if women are more efficient and spend more time producing efficiently, then it is reasonable to expect a reduction in child labour.

One can even venture to assume that population explosion, due to a high growth rate which affects most developing countries, could be relatively reduced if women were more engaged in productive ventures. Therefore, women should not be merely considered as part of the development problem but they should be taken as a means of solving the problem.

Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that women, especially low income rural women, are possibly the most under-rated development resource of the Third World. Though they have long been recognised as reproducers of mankind, they have steadfastly been ignored as producers of wealth. The economic roles that the rural women engage themselves in vary from country to country, yet such roles will always include some of the following: food production, food processing, food storage and food preservation. In addition, water and fuel carrying, house repair, care of livestock and poultry and home production of other household goods and services are economic undertakings that are done by women. Indeed often women carry out such activities under very hard conditions.

Therefore, when we talk of rural development plans we inherently have to talk of development of rural women and any rural strategies laid down for rural development must give preference to women. It is only by improving employment conditions of the rural women that we can hope for genuine rural development.

Mr. Chairman, I am convinced that the present employment situation of the rural women in Africa and Asia forces them to give a relatively smaller contribution towards our countries' development. There is still every chance of increasing that contribution if we are determined to do so. May I therefore take this opportunity to make a call to all African and Asian countries to acknowledge effectively the presence of, and make use of, the entire women's labour force in their rural development programmes?

Mr. Chairman, I have briefly tried to point out the employment conditions of rural women in developing countries. Today, the world over, talks of women's rights are heard. Workshops and seminars are always being conducted on this issue but most of us, when we talk of women's rights, tend to focus on wage employment, political leadership and decision-making for women. We pay less heed to liberating the rural women from the chores of labour resulting from their dedication to duty. At present, most of the rural women in Africa and Asia are left in labour-intensive sectors characterised by low productivity and low returns. I believe that the improved employment conditions of the rural women are a stepping stone towards the whole question of women's rights, as most women are found in the rural areas.

The questions which your Workshop has set out to answer, therefore, are very important and crucial if our womenfolk in the societies of the Third World are truly to break from this most agonising situation and cope with the modern needs of our communities in which the yearning for economic and social development is urgently real for everyone. Indeed, human equality cannot be attained if one sex is perpetually at the receiving end.

In order to uplift their status and well being, there is an urgent need to evolve programmes that reduce the burden of the woman in her role as mother as well as in her other responsibilities of fetching water, carrying firewood, cooking and washing. While it may prove difficult to ensure that men share equally in most of these responsibilities, it is certainly easy to evolve devices that can help the women ease their load in a number of these chores. At this juncture, may I take this opportunity to mention a few areas that need to be considered in planning strategies to help the employment conditions of rural women. First and foremost, we must try to develop appropriate technology that will at least enable them to sustain their families. The existing farm implements need to be improved so that they will require less labour and, at the same time, will be able to increase the output. These innovations must be suitable to the climatic conditions of the respective areas. Attention must be given to research that will yield a wider and more efficient range of farm implements, such as the plough, the planter, the harrow, the in-row cultivators and the cart.

There is also a need to think of more effective methods of controlling weeds. The present system of hand weeding is very tiresome and as a result the women sometimes choose to abandon their farms. We do not need sophisticated weeding machines but at least we can afford hand weeding machines and weed killers. What a disappointment it is to a poor rural woman who, on top of her task of child-carrying, has managed to cultivate her plot and is then forced to abandon it because of weeds. Mr. Chairman, such occasions happen and during my visits to rural areas of Tanzania I have personally witnessed abandoned plots. I have no doubt that this case also applies to many other countries of Africa and Asia.

That being the case, it is obvious that if we intend Co make a breakthrough in dealing with some of our problems we have to Chink of ways and means of training rural women in modern farming. The best way to train them, considering their level of education, is to show them by practical example. There is a necessity to organise research centres in rural areas where women will learn the proper use of fertilisers and better choice of seed appropriate to the kind of soil and other geographical conditions of the respective areas. Together with this is the question of land conservation and land utilisation. The rural women who cultivate form the bulk of the rural peasants. Hence, they must be trained to make better use of land so as to preserve the fertility of the soil and must also be trained to use minimum area of land to get maximum production. In short the improved technology in agriculture must help our rural women to produce more using less labour than they put in now.

Mr. Chairman, in spite of the fact that our women cultivate under very hard conditions, they sometimes harvest more than they expect to get. When this occurs, though not very often, there is a need for them to save their produce for future use. In many rural areas women have traditional methods of preservation of food. There is a real necessity to encourage them not only to continue with such methods but also to learn new and more appropriate methods of food preservation. I hope, Mr. Chairman, your Workshop will find a means of assisting the rural women with adequate technology that will help them in devising methods of improved crop preservation. Another laborious task that the rural women face is grinding grain. Most of them still use the grinding stone. This job can be more tiresome than cultivating itself, so there is a need to find a means of easing them of this task. Rural electrification programmes will help in establishing grinding mills and minimising the use of wood fuel.

Mr. Chairman, agriculture is not the only occupation of the rural women. Most of them, if not all, engage in local handicrafts. Their income generating activities require specialised skills and sometimes years of apprenticeship. At present, most of the crafts done by women are labour intensive and of very low productivity. Many societies tend to divide crafts for men and crafts for women. Personally, I tend to think that there is no logic in this division of labour because a specific craft may be done by men in one region and handled by women in the other. My conviction is that women can do any of the jobs that are done by men provided they get the opportunity and the training.

Mr. Chairman, the time has come to think of improving local handicrafts so as to improve the employment conditions and income of our women. This goal can be achieved by introducing appropriate technologies for these crafts. However, before any programmes are designed it is necessary to investigate the existing possibilities open to our rural women, based on traditional or easily acquired skills and also to study the present day demands of these products in local and if possible extended markets. We should try to improve the already existing skills by extending the range of crafts Chat are based on such skills. For example, a woman skilled in pottery can be trained to use her skill to make plates, tiles and bricks which will give her greater earning. Handicrafts are a means of increasing income for our women but we must select those which provide gainful employment.

In helping rural women to improve their employment conditions and promote their income earning opportunities, special attention should be given to co-operatives. Because, apart from the fact that co-operatives protect the income of members and increase employment opportunities, they also endeavour to raise the living standards of the people, including those of poor rural women. I personally believe that under the circumstances that face many a developing country, where capital is rare to find, co-operative societies can become a key factor in rural development. Rural co-operative societies, organised Co supply farm inputs and those that engage in production and marketing of crops are surely a boost to agriculture. A higher form of co-operative will engage in agro-industries in rural areas. What is more, there is a need to run co-operatives that deal with small enterprises, such as those specialising in cottage industries.

All said, Mr. Chairman, I believe that the key role in development of our rural women should be played by women themselves. Our main concern here is to think of policies and activities which are fundamental to the inculcation of positive attitudes in our minds. Such policies should serve as catalysts in the process of development in rural areas.

I understand that the International Labour Organisation has been playing an active role in establishing and developing co-operatives that are organised on the lines of self help. Indeed, it is my hope that this commitment will continue and will be consolidated. The ILO needs a pat on the back for this commendable service it renders for the good of the people of the developing countries.

I hope that it is every government's intention to improve the employment conditions of rural women by formulating new and practical strategies. Such strategies should aim at decreasing the problems facing women in their everyday activities while at the same time increasing their productivity so as to raise their earning capacity. To achieve that, it is indeed important that women should be able to formulate and manage their own projects. That being the case, there is a need to give rural women training that will help them increase their ability in project planning, project implementation and project assessment.

I suppose we all agree that our rural women work tirelessly. Hence, there is a need for our governments to make deliberate efforts to help them in their endeavours by providing them with some essential services. In order to help the working mothers, a conducive atmosphere should be created by establishing day care centres. Such centres, if well run, would enable rural women to discharge their responsibilities effectively as mothers as well as workers.

It should be borne in mind Chat the health of most rural women is not very sound. Ill health is one of the main stumbling blocks towards positive contribution to development. Therefore, while there is a need to increase health centres especially in the rural areas where most of the economically active population is found, the greater need is for rural women to be equipped with preventive techniques to combat the most prevailing diseases in their respective localities. I am sure this Workshop will also look into other services which are essential to the improvement of employment conditions of rural women.

Mr Chairman and dear delegates, many Tanzanian women and their counterparts elsewhere in Asia and Africa, are anxiously waiting for the results of this Workshop. The proposals for technological innovations that will be discussed in this Workshop will definitely will be directed towards improving the working conditions of poor rural women.

Such technological innovations must ensure women's development and economic self-sufficiency. The programmes and policies that may henceforth ensue should be economically viable. The skills to be introduced must be viable and directly useful to the women's daily lives. What is more, programmes and policies must be based on a clear knowledge of the fact of the women's lives and not idealised concepts. In addition Co that, programmes and policies should seek to strengthen women's existing skills and to enable them to make full use of raw materials and resources that are readily available to them. Yet, what is more important is the fact that women in rural areas themselves should participate in all aspects of policy determination, as well as in programme and project formulation and implementation.

Finally, a small caution, care should be taken to foresee the likely consequences that the introduced innovations might have on all aspects of women's lives, especially their impact on the social and economic status of women, their health and the well being of their families.

Mr. Chairman, our women are ready to start schemes that would make them economically equal partners to men. What they need is a little encouragement and help. While enterprises that can be allocated to rural women are usually of small scale, their impact on the overall economy cannot be under-rated. Women are capable of taking responsibility for themselves and for their families. The improvement of their employment conditions will raise their status, increase their income generating capacity, strengthen their voice in decision-making and enhance their ability to act on their own behalf.

I realise, of course, that some of the proposals I am making might seem far fetched to some but probably it is equally true that in the long run they are the only way out. Indeed, we have to plan now for what we want to achieve in the year 2000 and beyond. It is on this basis that in Tanzania we have a long-term goal to make water accessible to all our rural communities, to build day care centres and distribute electricity to as many rural areas as possible; to build rural clinics, to improve the techniques of agricultural production through the use of the ox plough and where possible the tractor, and to plant forests for firewood and timber around the villages. For it is only through the development of these infrastructures that we can begin the march towards the liberation of womenfolk. At present the women in the rural areas are the ones suffering the most from traditional rigidities. It is, thus, essential that the governments should begin to pay greater and greater attention to the alleviation of their sufferings.

An educationist once said that, "when you educate a man you educate an individual but when you educate a woman you educate the home". By the same token, the Third World cannot succeed to emerge from its present underdevelopment if it fails to provide for the woman. The majority of the women who need this assistance live and work in the rural areas. I personally consider your concern for the welfare of these rural women a most welcome and timely development. I sincerely hope that our respective governments as well as the agencies endowed with resources will take the outcome of your deliberations seriously.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished participants, it is hardly necessary for me to remind this distinguished audience that this year, 1984, is near the end of the United Nations Decade for Women. As already alluded to earlier, the majority of women, like the rest of the population of the Third World, is to be found in the rural areas. It is, thus, most opportune that you are meeting here to reflect on their plight. I sincerely hope, therefore, that your Workshop will also delve into the question of the achievements we have made for women generally and for rural women in particular during the past decade.

Once again I take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the organisers of this Workshop for the invitation. I would also like to thank the participants for being very attentive throughout my speech.

Finally, on this note, it is my honour and privilege to declare this most important Workshop officially open.

Thank you.