Joint message from the UN Resident Coordinator, UN Women Representative and UNFPA Representative on International Women’s Day
08 March 2023
Breaking Barriers: How Innovative Solutions Can Empower Women and Girls in Tanzania
Women are underrepresented in innovation and technology-related fields worldwide, including Tanzania. According to the UNESCO Science Report (2021), only 33% of researchers worldwide are women. The gender gap in innovation and technology is particularly pronounced in certain fields. For example, women make up only 7% of inventors in the field of mechanical engineering, and only 12% of inventors in the field of electrical engineering.
As we celebrate International Women's Day in Tanzania this year, the theme "Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender-equal future" couldn't be more fitting. It reminds us that to achieve gender equality, we must think innovatively, creatively and find new solutions to old problems. We need to break the codes and negative social and gender norms that hold women back and continue building a world where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive.
Innovation has always been a driving force in human progress. It has transformed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. It has brought us new technologies, ideas, and ways of viewing the world. But as we innovate, we must ensure we are not leaving anyone behind. Women and girls in Tanzania, particularly the most marginalized such as women and girls with disabilities, migrants, minorities, refugees, and those living in rural areas, continue to face barriers that limit their potential and hold them back from achieving their goals. From unequal pay for equal work to limited access to education, healthcare and participation, regional variations in Tanzania are profound; these barriers must be dismantled if we are to create a truly gender-equal future.
One area where innovation can make a significant difference is in the workplace. Despite progress in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions and face a persistent gender pay gap. Multiple sectors in Tanzania have begun to embrace flexible working arrangements that allow women to balance work and family responsibilities more effectively. Expanding these opportunities through access to community-based care institutions, remote work, job sharing, and flexible hours provides benefits for all. By giving women more control over their work schedules, we can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace; when women thrive, everyone benefits.
Innovation in healthcare in Tanzania continues to evolve. With improved access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights, family planning continues to be an important healthcare service, with stagnant progress in unmet needs. While there are many methods potentially available, they are not equally available and may not meet the contraceptive and reproductive health needs of all persons. New methods and delivery systems, more thoughtful and patient-centered counselling, and rigorous assessment of outcomes can inform and improve the quality of care.
Another area where innovation makes a significant difference is education. According to UNESCO, women in Tanzania represent 40 per cent of university enrollment, but only about 24 per cent are enrolled in science, engineering and technology fields. Girls continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and face stereotypes and biases that discourage them from pursuing these subjects. By promoting STEM education for girls and providing them with role models and mentors in these fields, we recognize the national universities in Tanzania enhancing opportunities for STEM education for women which helps to break down these barriers and create a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
Innovation can also help to address the issue of gender-based violence, which affects women and girls worldwide, including in Tanzania. From sexual harassment to domestic violence, girls and women continue to face significant risks to their safety and well-being. By developing new technologies and tools to prevent and respond to violence against women through a survivor-centred approach with easy access to health, social welfare, police and justice, we can create a safer and more just society for everyone.
We celebrate national successes in Tanzania in innovation toward a gender-equal future. At the national level, the 2022 Census, which for the first time used digital technology, will provide detailed gender-disaggregated data to inform policies and programming that support women and girls. At the local level, a small-scale project demonstrates promise: Digital Champions, provided with mobile phones, are empowered to trace and report GBV cases in their areas. We salute the many champions across Tanzania who recognize that human rights are women’s rights, and work toward the prevention of harmful practices in their communities and uphold gender equality.
With strong female leadership in place in Tanzania, women in Tanzania express that they are claiming the space to move forward, networking and innovating towards gender equality. Ultimately, achieving a gender-equal future will require strong commitment to innovation and creativity. The recently published Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria 2022 Key Indicators demonstrate progress in maternal health, but the innovations that enable these advances must be scaled up and shared across the country to support Tanzania’s growing population.
We must challenge our assumptions and think outside the box. By working together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of gender. The United Nations in Tanzania, delivering as one, supports the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to achieve our shared aim toward Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender equality. So let us embrace the national theme of International Women's Day this year in Tanzania and crack the code to a more gender-equal future.