Africa

Reality TV show promotes women’s rights in Tanzania

Marginalized women break barrier to own land following TV show dubbed Mama Shujaa wa Chakula

Kizito Makoye   | 21.11.2021
Reality TV show promotes women’s rights in Tanzania

KIBAHA, Tanzania

For a 54-year-old Calorina Chelele, the skills and knowledge she had acquired during a 21-day stint in a village west of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s port city, five years ago, were more than enough to propel her into a new role as a women’s land rights ambassador in her community.

“I have learned very important lessons about land governance and why women are always lagging behind on land issues,” Chelele told Anadolu agency on the occasion of the World Television Day on Nov. 21.

Chelele, who won a prize of 20 million Tanzanian shillings (approximately $8,700) in 2016 as part of a popular reality TV show dubbed "Mama Shujaa wa Chakula," which means "female food heroes," has used her fame to educate women in her Kikwawila village about land rights, which are often violated due to deeply rooted customary norms that prioritize men.

With her cash in hand, she bought seven acre land where she has been growing maize, beans, vegetables, and cassava, and she inspired other women in the impoverished village to engage in income-generating activities.

“Land is a very important asset, I couldn’t think of anything else for my family, it is an investment for the future,” she told Anadolu Agency.


Low-privilege

Although women constitute 75% of Tanzania’s agricultural workforce, they do not always have unlimited access to land.

To help highlight such gender inequalities, the global charity Oxfam teamed up with a local Tanzanian television station to produce a reality television show aimed at educating society about women’s rights to land ownership and other income-generating activities.

Under the show, which was filmed in a dusty village of Kisanga with clusters of squat houses west of Dar es Salaam, 18 or 20 participants were routinely picked and required to live in a challenging environment in the rural setting – while performing a range of agricultural activities such as farming, planting trees, selling fresh produce from the farm, or making pottery while being filmed like in the Big Brother competition.

During the 21-day stint, the participants competed for the reward as well as farming and fishing tools.

The Female Food Heroes Reality TV, which entailed intensive training, was an innovative approach to raise awareness about the challenges Tanzania’s women face in the agricultural sector and address issues of climate change and women’s land rights, women’s rights campaigners said.

Through the initiative, the selected farmers learned various issues related to land governance, leadership, and finance so that they could share the knowledge and skills among themselves and with women in their communities.

The show, which has attracted 37 million viewers and radio listeners across Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya since its inception in 2011, has been praised for promoting women’s rights to land, Oxfam officials said.


- Decision-making on land governance issues

Eluka Kibona, Oxfam’s advocacy and campaign manager, said the initiative has empowered women and helped improve their decision-making on land governance issues.

The program capitalized on its large viewership to raise awareness about women’s land rights and address barriers that women face on economic and cultural issues, Kibona said.

The show, which focuses on women’s land rights, was extremely helpful in educating marginalized women about these issues.

Although women constitute 80% of Tanzania’s agricultural labor force, they own only 20% of the land, government data shows.

While women have the same rights to land as men under the country’s law, they are often pushed on the wobbly edge of survival due to customary norms that give men priority, women’s rights campaigners said.

“Many women in my village are unaware that they have the right to own land. The situation is now changing as many of them are becoming aware of their rights,” said Chelele.

Some women in her village, she asserted, are now using their land title deeds as collateral to secure bank loans to pay for fertilizers, seeds and other farming equipment.

Winnie Mallya, who participated in the fifth season of the show, said it helped her to understand the importance of teamwork.

“We were working as a team and helped each other to resolve problems by sharing some ideas,” she said.

Apart from gaining knowledge on women’s land rights, she asserted, the reality TV show helped her learn new farming skills, such as processing manure for fertilizer, growing cloves, and making clay ovens for pottery.

While the country’s 1999 land legislation grants equal rights to land ownership, customary norms in some villages, which give men priority, have pushed women on the wobbly edge, farmers said.

“It’s a pity in some villages… everything is dictated by men, that is wrong… it has to change,” said Eva Daudi, a farmer.

Dina Samweli, who also took part in the fifth season of the show, said the lessons she learned about land rights have benefited her family and the community in which she lives.

“I am always happy to educate fellow women about their right to land,” she told Anadolu Agency.

According to her, stronger women’s land rights have given them the confidence to invest more in the land, as well as in their children’s health and education.

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