Some steps forward, some steps back

African Youth Development Alliance - Tanzania Chapter, Association for Prevention of Torture (APT), Centre for Promotion of Human Rights, Disabled Organization for Legal and Social Economic Development (DOLASED), Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania Centre for Women and Children Welfare, Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA), The Leadership Forum, Women Advancement Trust (WAT), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC)

With over a third of the population still living below the basic needs poverty line, and faced by the possibility that only two of the Millennium Development Goal targets will be met by 2015, civil society members are beginning to understand that sound macroeconomic performance is not enough to address quality of life and equality issues in Tanzania.

Poverty, along with ignorance and disease, is a scourge which Tanzania has been fighting against since the Mainland gained independence in 1961 and the 1964 Revolution in Zanzibar. During the past 40 years Tanzania has implemented a number of policies and programmes aimed at achieving victory in this war against poverty.

Its macroeconomic environment greatly shaped the pace and outcome of its efforts. After starting off with a mixed economy strategy in the early 1960s, Tanzania embarked on a more socialist path in 1967. Its achievements up to the early 1970s were neutralized by global recession and policy challenges which denied the country a quick recovery. Critical self-assessment of policies and performance led to the adoption of a full-scale economic reform programme in 1988 in order to restore both the internal and external balances. Macroeconomic balances were restored to reasonable levels and signs of recovery began to show in the early 1990s.

This report aims at analysing and evaluating the progress made towards tackling poverty and gender disparities. The report will also examine the Government’s record on its commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen 1995), the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995) and the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

Situational analysis

Poverty context

According to the 2001-2002 Household Budget Survey (HBS), in Mainland Tanzania 35.7% of the population live below the basic needs poverty line (upper poverty line) and 18.7% below the food poverty line (lower poverty line). Ten years earlier the proportions were 38.6% and 21.6% respectively.[1] Results for Zanzibar’s most recent HBS (2003) are still being processed.

Grassroots consultation in rural areas[2] on both the Mainland and Zanzibar, found that poverty was associated with low income and low expenditure, food insecurity, high vulnerability to diseases and natural disasters, low productivity, poor nutritional status, low education attainment, limited access to transportation and exclusion from economic, social and political processes. In urban areas poverty was associated with appalling overcrowding in slums or squatter settlements, bad sanitation, loitering, high morbidity, unemployment and underemployment, and low earnings in both the formal and informal sectors.[3]

Intervention: national policy frameworks

The Government has developed different policy measures and strategies to tackle poverty in the country. These include: the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP), and a home-grown and widely consulted[4] Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS),[5]which departs radically from its predecessor, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), crafted within the context of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. The NSGRP was prepared using a rich experience of policy formulations such as the National Poverty Eradication Strategy,[6] the PRSP, the Tanzania Development Vision 2025,[7] the Local Government Reform Programme,[8] and land reforms. Zanzibar also has the Vision 2020[9] and the five year-old Zanzibar Poverty Reduction Plan (ZPRP)[10] which have led to the implementation of the second PRS and ZPRP. Different measures were taken in order to achieve these objectives.[11]

Intervention results

Official government statistics indicate that there are some improvements in poverty eradication, as well as in some MDG targets as shown in Table 1. The data reveal that interventions have succeeded only with respect to two targets: net enrolment in primary education and access to safe drinking water. The status for these goals has changed from being off-target to being on-target, which raises the feasibility of reaching the targets by 2015.

Table 1: Status of selected MDGs and assessment of progress (2000-2004)


Mainland 2000

Mainland 2004








Extreme poverty (food) (%)



off target



off target

Primary education net enrolment (%)



off target



on target

Under-five mortality/1,000



off target



off target

Maternal mortality rate/100,000



off target



off target

Population with access to safe water (%)



off target



on target

HIV/AIDS prevalence in adult population (%)



off target



off target

Note: E(V) = Expected Value Computed as 40% time passage for 2000 and 56% for 2004, since 1990, towards 2015.
Sources: URT (various), for 2004 information: NSGRP, December 2004.

Primary education

The educational system’s patriarchal style has led to poor performance by girls at different levels. Interviews with members of civil society reveal that advances in enrolment must be considered alongside drop out rates and poor parental support. Quality of education is another issue since class densities are as high as 150 pupils[12] when the prescribed national standard is 45 pupils per classroom.[13]

The crash course programme implemented for primary school teachers has not been successful either. The programme involves recruiting new teachers from among students leaving grade 9. Nevertheless recruits are found even among students with low marks and retrenched workers with no training as teachers.

The programme ends up producing poorly qualified teachers, who are only given basic teaching skills and not the knowledge of the subject that they will have to teach after being trained. Teachers and parents interviewed declared that the quality of education was affected not only by the lack of learning materials, but by the lack of adequate teaching.[14]

Safe drinking water

According to data from the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, the country as a whole appears to be on its way to halving the proportion of the population that has no access to safe drinking water. In 2002, 73% of the population had access compared to only 38% in 1990.[15]

Members of civil society contest official statistics on access to safe drinking water. In both urban and rural areas there are persistent water problems. Even in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, half the population has no access to safe water. In most rural areas the situation is worse and people must walk more than ten kilometres to reach water in streams and rivers.[16]

Improving macroeconomic performance

Staying the course of economic reforms has been the preoccupation of the Government. Macroeconomic indicators have improved considerably with a sustained positive economic growth rate, low inflation rates, a stable exchange rate and an improved business environment. A stable and predictable macroeconomic environment has stimulated and restored the confidence of the private sector, development partners and foreign direct investments. As a spin-off, Tanzania reached the HIPC completion point in November 2001.

In the face of the above success, civil society members now understand that good macroeconomic performance per se is only a necessary and not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. It is also clear from the rapidly widening gap between the very few rich and the many poor that the benefits of macroeconomic improvements have not reached all sectors of society equitably. There are also glaring inequities depending on geographical location and gender.

Gender context

Women outnumber men on both the Mainland and Zanzibar. According to the 2002 population census, women make up 51% of the population.[17]

Women living in poverty: the rural-urban dichotomy

The 2000-2001 HBS estimates the incidence of basic needs poverty at 39% for rural areas compared to 18% in Dar es Salaam and 26% in other urban areas.[18] Compared to their urban counterparts, women in rural areas are more disadvantaged and more often live below the poverty line. There are many variables which emphasize this dichotomy although the unequal distribution of land holdings and assets can be identified as the main cause of women’s poverty. Tanzania’s agricultural pattern basically thrives on small holders’ farms and single households.[19]

The long-standing belief that households are homogeneous entities has been worn down by empirical research, which has revealed conflicts in terms of production and consumption. The fact that there are many more women with no education (32.5%) than men (16.9%) and that women-headed households have risen from 12.3% of the poor in 1991-1992 to 18.6% in 2000-2001,[20] are further proof of women’s disadvantages.[21]

Addressing gender equality

The Government’s main goal is to achieve equal access for boys and girls to primary schools, secondary schools and higher learning institutions. The move is also focused on achieving equal opportunities for women and men in political, economical and social matters. To that effect, the Government has formulated policies and passed legislation which provides equal opportunities to women vis-à-vis men.[22]

Impact of government actions

Despite the Government’s efforts, women - especially in rural areas - still remain underrepresented in political, economic and social decision-making. This is due to the poor implementation of legislation and traditional practices and laws which make women vulnerable to discrimination in the ownership of productive assets, especially at village level, where they are prevented from owning land. In the events of separation, divorce or death of a spouse, women face discriminatory cultural practices which deny their rights to own the assets left behind. Women are far behind in higher and tertiary education, and bear the brunt of a weak health system experiencing high maternal and child mortality, high incidence of HIV/AIDS and high morbidity.[23]

In Tanzania there are only 4 women Ministers among 24 men, 18 women District Commissioners among 85 men and only 22.5% of members of parliament are women. There are marginal increases in the number of women in some decision-making bodies such as Parliament.[24] Unfortunately in some cases these women do not represent women’s interests but rather the interests of those who appointed them, namely men with links to the Government.

These factors prevent women from attaining gender equality. Research conducted in the rural areas of Kibondo and Iramba portrayed the real picture of gender inequalities in work, inheritance, education, political participation and representation, and with respect to domestic violence.[25]


·      Inadequate agricultural policies do not address the core problems of farmers. Poor implementation of policies leads to poor production, thereby intensifying poverty.

·      A strong patriarchal system is still in place, contributing to women’s discrimination, subjection and subordination, and their weak position in all development sectors.

·      Stakeholders have not yet addressed equity issues in relation to the MDGs. Reports so far have focused on national averages, but it would be more helpful to explore how MDG indicators differ by gender, rural/urban setting and region.

·      Corruption hinders the implementation of development projects and the provision of services to the poor majority of Tanzania.

·      HIV/AIDS is also a major challenge since it creates poverty and reduces the size of the workforce.


·      The Government, civil society and development partners must join hands and develop fiscal policies which support poor farmers, who make up the majority of the population. Sufficient production will be achieved when poor farmers have access to credit, access to affordable agriculture inputs, and access to regional and global markets. This can be achieved by improving infrastructure and access to market information.

·      Cultural and traditional practices which discriminate against women and subject them to exploitation and oppression must be opposed by raising awareness in society and changing its perception of women.

·      Policies must be formulated to address the quality of education, low performance levels, low enrolment, and high dropout rates, which compromise girls’ educational achievements.

·      The relaxation of trade barriers by rich countries can significantly increase the incomes of poor Tanzanians, and the encouragement of public and private partnerships in financing social services and infrastructure could lead to better results.


The Government should adopt a participatory approach and formulate different poverty eradication strategies as an essential part of poverty analysis. In this way, more regionally focused poverty strategies can be adopted which reflect the realities of poor people.

The conceptualization of poverty from a gender perspective is also necessary in order to understand how men and women experience poverty differently. Although many men and women are poor, when analyzing the way poverty is both shared and distributed within families, it is evident that “all suffer but some suffer more than others”.

This perspective emphasizes the role that both men and women must play in analyzing and developing strategic options in the fight to eradicate poverty. When poor men and poor women are consulted, it becomes obvious that current macroeconomic policy is limited in its ability to eradicate poverty and develop alternative development approaches which take the needs of these people into account. Therefore gender must be integrated into poverty analysis in national and international poverty debates and into the appropriate economic, political and social policies, programmes and projects for poverty eradication.


[1] United Republic of Tanzania (URT). 2002-01 Household Budget Survey. Dar es Salaam, National Bureau of Statistics, 2003.
[2] Deepa, Narayan et al. Voices of the Poor. Can anyone hear us? Vol 1. World Bank, December 1999.
[3] URT. Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Dar es Salaam, 2000; URT.Poverty Reduction Strategy: The Third Progress Report 2002/2003. Dar es Salaam, 2004; Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar (RGZ). Zanzibar Vision 2020. Zanzibar, 2002; Mbelle, Avy. Millennium Development Goals in Tanzania: Poverty Policy Analysis Training Manual. Dar es Salaam, 2004.
[4] This is a successor programme to PRSP drawn up through wide consultations at the grassroots level. It spans 2005-06 to 2009-10.
[5] The overall objective of PRS is to direct resources to the priority areas and make sure that national policies are being implemented. The PRS is considered to be instrumental in attaining the NPES and Vision 2025 goals.
[6] The overall objectives of NPES are to provide a framework for poverty eradication initiatives in order to reduce absolute poverty by 50% by 2010 and eradicate it by 2025.
[7] The Vision 2025 main objectives are: high quality of livelihood, good governance and rule of law, and a strong, competitive economy.
[8] The goals of the LGRP are to improve the quality of and access to public services, increase the accountability of local authorities and allow users to express how they want the services managed and delivered. The programme also aims to develop service partnerships between the public and private sectors.
[9] The overall objectives of the Vision 2020 are to reduce poverty by improving purchasing power, ownership of productive resources, freedom and peace.
[10] The ZPRP focuses on reducing income poverty, improving human capabilities, survival and social wellbeing.
[11] Measures taken include orienting the budget towards poverty reduction, mainstreaming the MDGs in the national policy frameworks, inclusion of MDGs in the poverty monitoring process and expanding and consolidating global partnership (MDG 8).
[12]Department for International Development. “The education and training of artisans for the informal sector in Tanzania”. October 1995;
[13]UNESCO. “National Report of the United Republic of Tanzania”. June 1996;
[14] Parents show dissatisfaction with the inadequacy of learning materials as well as with the insufficient number of classrooms and teachers. Long distances were also mentioned, since some pupils must walk over 5 kilometres to school.
[15] WHO and UNICEF. “Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation”. July 2004;
[16] Social Watch Report, “Fact Finding Mission, Iramba and Kibondo District as a case study”. Lack of alternative energy sources means that wood is the only fuel available and hence there is rampant deforestation around water sources. Widespread poverty in rural areas forces people to overexploit their surroundings and natural resources in order to survive.
[17] URT. 2002 Population and Housing Census General Report. 2003.
[18] URT (2002-01), op cit.
[19] Security of tenure continues to be a determining factor in all decisions concerning land. Women cannot access credit to achieve more productivity on the land because of lack of collateral. Lack of security of tenure also impacts the investment, environment, access to new technologies and extension of services as well as land use. Furthermore, the patriarchal system which discriminates against women is very strongly practiced in the rural areas. Information from WLAC’s Gender and Poverty Programme. “Women, Land and Property Rights, Report on Facts and Lessons Learnt from the Ground.”
[20] These poverty calculations use the headcount ratio method.
[21] URT (2002-01), op cit.
[22] Land Act 1999, Village Land Act 1999, Election Act and the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.
[23] URT. Poverty and Human Development Report 2002. 2002.
[24] Advance Social Watch Report 2005. Unkept Promises. What the numbers say about poverty and gender, p. 79.
[25] Social Watch (2004), op cit. Participation in decision-making in relation to gender in Iramba District in Singida Region portrayed serious gender imbalances. This is the situation in most rural areas. Source: Iramba District Council Report 2002.

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