Benefit of an elite at the expense of the poor majority

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) ; Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP); Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA); Women Advancement Trust (WAT); National Youth Forum (NYF); Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF); Women Legal Aid Centre (WLAC)

While some businessmen and investors cite GDP growth and higher efficiency as positive results of liberalisation, civil society finds that economic reform measures have reduced government services in communities, increased individual costs for social services, and caused job losses. The results have been regressive, as a small minority have benefited while the majority have become further impoverished and disenfranchised.

Benefitof an elite at the expense of the poor majority

Whilesome businessmen and investors cite GDP growth and higher efficiency as positiveresults of liberalisation, civil society finds that economic reform measureshave reduced government services in communities, increased individual costs forsocial services, and caused job losses. The results have been regressive, as asmall minority have benefited while the majority have become furtherimpoverished and disenfranchised.

Notwithstandingrosy predictions of efficiency and investment, privatisation and structuraladjustment have had adverse effects on Tanzania’s rural poor. In 1992 thegovernment adopted the Parastatal Reform Policy, whose objective was to help theprivate sector take advantage of business opportunities, while governmentfulfilled its traditional roles of maintaining law and order, and providing theeconomic and social infrastructure. The government had the task of creating alevel playing field for economic competition and social development to takeplace under private sector control.

Retrenchment(downsizing) in public and private sectors has led to increased job insecurity,lower pay and high unemployment levels, with low-income women being the mostvulnerable. Social inequality has escalated, especially in housing, educationand healthcare.

Crops:once again, the colonial monopoly[1]

Throughongoing privatisation initiatives, the government, in conjunction with externalmultinationals, is removing local resources from the hands of the majority ofthe people and putting them in the hands of the few, within as well as outsidethe country. Many multinationals tend to repatriate their profits to make newinvestments in other countries, hence the government benefits only from nationaltaxes, which do not benefit the local poor communities since social serviceshave been reduced.[2]

Smallholderfarming and livestock keeping, on which the majority of rural people rely fortheir livelihoods, have been thrown into crisis because of liberalisationmeasures such as the withdrawal of price support, soft loans, and subsidies forfarm inputs. The majority of farm households in many areas depend heavily onoff-farm activities to supplement declining farm incomes. Real returns forexport and food crops have declined in many areas. Small farmers lack access tosubsidies and loans that would allow them to modernise and increaseproductivity. Their crops are consequently of lower quality than those oflarge-scale farmers and bring lower prices.

Thereare widening disparities between large and small farmers, and between differentagro-economic zones. Economic reforms have tended to favour large-scalecapitalist enterprises such as plantations and large ranches in Tanzania. Theyhave regained their old colonial monopoly over support systems such as credit,extension services, and marketing channels – and a growing number are foreigninvestors, including white-owned companies from South Africa.[3]

Asusual, harder for women

Thefeminisation of poverty has occurred side by side with increased female labourforce participation and increased female access to and control over cashincomes. Changes in women’s economic activities, however, can only beunderstood in the context of the dramatic reduction of male employment andincomes. Most people employed in the formal labour market have been men, whohave been most directly affected by retrenchment policies in the public sectorand downsizing in the private sector.

Atthe same time, real wages in both the formal and informal sector have declined,as have real farm incomes. Many men, no longer able to provide for the cashneeds of their families, are increasingly dependent on the incomes of women.Because of the decline in incomes and the economic hardships on small farms,urban migration has increased; the majority of the new city-dwellers are youngpeople and women seeking extra and non-farm incomes. Child labour has becomeincreasingly important to household economies.

Inaddition, because of user fees and withdrawal of government support, much of theburden for care of the sick and the elderly has been returned to the householdlevel, primarily falling on women. It is estimated that women in the rural areaswork more than 14 hours a day compared with 10 hours for men.[4]

Environmentaldegradation means water reserves dry up due to lack of forest cover, increasingthe distance for the women fetching water. In all these experiences women areexploited further through the implementation of the IMF/government policies thatdemand increased crop yields without providing for technological innovations tofacilitate them.

Tradeliberalisation and the rise of unpaid labour

Bothwomen and men increasingly depend on self-employment in the informal sector,which has no job protection, worker benefits, maternity leave, minimum wage orother worker support systems, and has been overlooked thus far by unionorganisers. The majority of informal sector workers earn extremely smallincomes, which barely cover production costs. Women tend to be channelled intothe least remunerative occupations within the informal sector; hence, womenpredominate in food manufacturing/ processing/sales work, whether they aresmall-scale operators or wage employees.

Thetwin policies of retrenchment and privatisation of parastatals have had adevastating impact on women, because of their greater dependence on the publicsector for regular employment. Structural adjustment has resulted in theshrinking of less competitive sectors of the manufacturing industry such astailoring and cloth manufacturing, and food processing, where, again, womenemployees were concentrated.

Unpaidlabour of women, children and youth has increased in smallholder farming andinformal sector activities, in order to reduce the costs of household economicactivities. Unpaid labour is replacing paid wage labour, a backward stepeconomically, socially, and politically. At the same time, the unpaid labour ofwomen and children continues to provide the bulk of needs within the householdand the community.

Increasedpoverty and rural-to-urban migration have also led to increased sex work amongwomen, men and children, which is partly associated with the rise of sex tourismand expatriate workers. Young girls who move to the cities in search of a betterlife are recruited, as they get off trains and buses, to work in brothels or onthe streets. Many others turn to sex work to escape from the low pay, harshworking conditions and sexual harassment experienced in domestic service, theother main job ‘opportunity’ available to young rural girls in town.

Theeffects of adjustment reforms, therefore, have been especially harmful for mostwomen: longer workdays, less access to basic resources like land and labour insome cases, reduced opportunities in formal wage employment and education, andincreased financial responsibility for families and communities—too often inabsence of support from the male partner.

Healthcare: mothers and babies held hostage[5]

TheTanzanian health budget is still very small. In the year 1998-1999 the healthbudget comprised less than 5% of total government expenditures. For many yearshealthcare services, including maternal healthcare, were provided freely andsubsidised by the government. With the introduction of structural adjustmentpolicies such as cost sharing in the mid-1980s, healthcare services now requirea fee payment. About half of all Tanzanians earn below poverty level of USD 1 aday, and are unable to meet required fees for medical treatments.

Despitecost-sharing exemptions for vulnerable categories such as the elderly, pregnantwomen, and the indigent, facilities are scarce and of very low quality. Inaddition, the elderly must go through a very cumbersome procedure to acquire acertificate of exemption.

Oftenthese exempted groups have to buy medicine prescribed to them by doctors from apharmacy. They must either struggle for money to afford the high cost ofprofit-oriented private services or perish, thus rendering the exemption policyirrelevant. Research conducted in the Kondoa district revealed that if amaternity patient fails to pay the required amount the normal procedure is thatshe will be given medical service but not discharged until costs are met.[6]

Arecent research done in the Lindi region in southern Tanzania showed that theso-called “exempt” patients in Nachingwea District Hospital are actuallypaying consultation fees and still have to obtain drugs elsewhere outside thehospital. In summary, it appears that the whole process of cost sharing actuallyhinders accessibility of health services.

Chart1.- Exempt patients attended at Nachingwea District Hospital

Water:just for the happy few

Theprivatisation of the water supply in the 1990s has led to higher prices for thisessential commodity. The government depends on the taxes from the privatecompanies, so they raise tariffs. In order to maximise profits while improvingservice, the companies raise costs. This has led many consumers to abandon—orbe cut off from-- water services. In addition, private water providers have notpromoted expansion of services to the rural areas. There are fewer sources ofsafe water, such as boreholes and protected streams in rural communities, manyof which now have access to safe water only in areas where religiousorganisations or other NGOs have provided it.


SAPshave had negative effects on the quality and availability of education. Costsharing and the reduction in public spending on primary education tend to affectgirls more adversely than boys. Structuraladjustment required parents to contribute to the education of their children,but patriarchal customs favoured boys over girls in education. Enrolmentin primary schools for both sexes had dropped since 1987, but now the trend isreversed since the Primary Education Development Policy in 2001 offers a freeprimary education to all children.

Aswomen become more active in market-oriented non-farm activities, they have beenforced to withdraw their children from school to work in the home. This has hadan immediate effect on children’s, particularly girls’, access to schooling,and will have long-term social as well as individual costs.[7]

Tariffsthat deplete forests

Privateenterprises and investors, foreign or local, have the basic objective of earningmaximum profits. The government’s role, therefore, is to see to it that itscitizens are not exploited and to provide basic services for them by taxingprivate businesses.

Withthe privatisation of parastatals that provide basic and essential services, suchas water and electricity,[8]in some cases a semi-monopoly has been created. Where electricity tariffs arevery high the rural poor cannot even dream of accessing these services. Charcoaland firewood are their only options for fuel, so they cut down trees. Theincrease in the acreage of crops by small farmers trying to compete with thelarger, subsidised farms, has led to more deforestation, due to theslash-and-burn system of agricultural production highly practised in ruralTanzania. Great expanses of land lie unused and barren. For most rural women,this represents a further burden, since they have to travel further in search offirewood.


FredKaijage, “Gender Impact of Structural Adjustment Programmes on Employment inthe Public Sector,” Report for ILO. Dares Salaam, 1997.

GlobalisationChallenge Initiative 2000a: “The IMF and World Bank-backed ‘PovertyReduction Strategy Papers’ – May 2000,” Tides Centre, Maryland.

GlobalisationChallenge Initiative 2000b: “Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) InformationAlert on the April 2000 IMF Loan to Tanzanian…” Silver Spring, Maryland,

MarjorieMbilinyi, “’Gender and Development’: Policy Issues in the context ofGlobalisation,” Paper presented at Fourth SCUSA Inter-University Colloquium,University of East Anglia, 1999, to be published in Ian Livingstone and DerykeBelshaw Eds. Renewing Development inSub-Saharan Africa. London: Routeledge, 2001.

MarjorieMbilinyi, ed. Gender Patterns in Micro andSmall Enterprises of Tanzania. Rome: AIDOS for MCDWAC and WRDP, 2000.

NaidooKumi “The New Civic Globalism,” TheNation, vol. 270 no. 18,2000, pp. 34-36.

RuthMeena,“The Impact of Structural Adjustment Programs on Rural Women inTanzania” in Christina H. Gladwin, ed., StructuralAdjustment and African Women Farmers. Gainesville: University of FloridaPress, 1991.

WorldBank, “World Bank and IMF Support Debt Relief for Tanzania under the EnhancedHIPC Initiative,” News Releases,, April 5, 1999.


[1] SAP-oriented measures have encouraged privatisation of local markets and reduced state financial support of the remaining few local marketing institutions, such as cooperative unions, which have deteriorated. Consequently, there is a growing trend for the prices of both food and cash crops in rural communities to be set by private traders, who have the means of reaching remote areas, and who enjoy direct access to foreign buyers.

[2] Because it has not addressed problems such as transportation and extension services, trade liberalisation has exploited local farmers instead of supporting them.

[3] Marjorie Mbilinyi, “Women Workers and Self-Employed in Rural Sector,” Report for ILO, Dar es Salaam, 1997.

[4] Fenella Mukangara and Bertha Koda, Beyond Inequalities: Women in Malawi Harare: SARDC, 1997.

[5] According to the Tanzanian reproductive report in 1999, life expectancy was 48 years; infant mortality was estimated to be 99 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality is also very high, estimated to be 529 per 100,000 live births.

[6] TGNP, “Gender Budget Initiative (GBI)” Dar es Salaam, report, 1998.

[7] The Social Watch Shadow Report in June 2000 showed that illiteracy for both men and women was on the rise.

[8] Electricity was privatised in 2001/2002.