Form the horse's mouth

HELVETAS’ DRIVE: A turning point in impoverished women’s lives

Regina Mazinge is only one out of over 3,000 women the Helvetas-funded Ukijani Project intends to liberate from shackles of gender imbalance and discriminative governance practices.

MONDAY July 1, 2024

Ukijani Project empowers women by increasing economic opportunities and imparting knowledge and skills to them. PHOTOS | DEUS BUGYWA

By Deus Bugaywa

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

Regina Mazinge’s story tells how socio-cultural norms discriminate and deny women of access to ownership and control of natural resources, particularly land, compelling them to lead a life with full of fear and anxiety.

Her triumph against all such odds, which she owes to Helvetas Swiss Interco, is inspiring to other troubled women as well.

The Helvetas-funded Ukijani Project successfully assisted her to legally own a piece of land she single-handedly fought for ages to no avail.

She now possesses a plot and two surveyed farms, relieving her from perennial threats, land battles and prejudice she contended with for ages.

“I have been through hardships a lot, this is a new beginning for myself, my one and only daughter and her kids. I feel much invigorated,” Regina Mazinge says. The customary title deed in her name, she says, will safeguard her resources.

Regina Mazinge, beneficiary of Ukijani Project, tends her forest garden at her household.

Ukijani Project aims at empowering women primarily by increasing economic opportunities and imparting knowledge to them.

Also, high on the initiative’s agenda is inspiring women to participate in leadership and community decision-making machineries.

Climate resilient women, the drive believes, will contribute to improving livelihoods of families and restoring community landscapes in the project areas.

Covering Manyoni, Iramba and Ikungi districts in Singida Region and Bariadi Town Council, Bariadi District Council and Meatu District in Simiyu Region, the Ukijani Project aspires to reach out to and support 5,000 direct beneficiaries.

Of the targeted beneficiaries, 3,300 will be women and 2,500 will be youth aged between 18 and 35 years. About 25,000 other beneficiaries from primary households and families of the stakeholders also will indirectly benefit.

Regina Mazinge is among 3,300 women and 2,500 youth aged between 18 and 35 years benefiting from Ukijani Project.

The project will train 66 women and 50 youth in service provision and build the capacity of communities to run at least 200 Village Savings and Loans Association groups and 10 forest garden learning centres.

Community Resource Persons in 180 villages across 55 wards will have their skills honed .

Ukijani Project intends to survey land and provide 600 women with the customary title deeds.

“Going by the positive response, we might reach out to about 2,500 women, far beyond the set target,” project officer Visitantuly Pilyson admits.

Ukijani Project mesmerises Regina Mazinge. “I am indebted to the project for the peace of mind I experience, my life has been a collection of sad and tedious stories. This is a new dawn to my life,” she says.

Regina blissfully tied the knot with a man of her dream in 1988, expecting a happy and strong friendship, companionship and sharing with her life time partner.

Regina Mazinge’s dream to live a happy life with a man of her dream he tied the knot with in 1988 was shattered barely after two years. PHOTO | KLEINFELD BRIDAL

As fate would have it, all the dreams were shattered in a span of two years. She got her first born through a caesarean delivery in 1989, but the kid could not survive long, as he died immediately after birth.

She conceived and went through the caesarean delivery once again only to realise she had a stillborn baby this time. In 1994, she had an ectopic pregnancy that occurs when a fertilised egg grows outside of the uterus.

Owing to the series of complicated pregnancies, she was advised to undergo a sterilisation operation that was when all hell broke loose.

Notwithstanding the traumatising experiences she went through, the man she thought was her life time partner abandoned her when she need time and support the most to rise above the grieve.

“He dumped me because I opted for the sterilisation operation, we had a daughter while he wanted more kids, and I had no choice but to leave,” says Regina, explaining that she resolved to stay with her mom in 1998.

Regina Mazinge (not in picture) was kicked out of her deceased mother’s house, compelling her to clear bushes and build her own small house at a plot village leaders provided her. PHOTO | PICHA STOCK

Sadly, her mother died two years later leaving Regina homeless, as her mother’s siblings robbed her of all assets, including the roof that sheltered her.

She resolved to recourse to village leaders, who provided her with a piece of land. She cleared bushes to build a small house.

Alas! newly elected village leaders asked her to vacate the place which for over a decade she thought belonged to her.

“They didn’t buy even when I insisted that their predecessors had declared me the owner of the plot before the villagers,” says Regina as she recalls swearing not to leave the place at all costs.

A ward executive officer, however, successfully intervened in the battle, ordering the adamant village leaders to compensate her if they needed to take the land. The village leaders opted for compensating her and took a portion of the land.

Ukijani Project mulls surveying land and providing 600 women with customary title deeds. PHOTO | REAL MULOODI

With no basis for protecting the land, Regina, whose land ownership depended on the mercy of the village leaders, lived in constant worries.

“I am really over the moon; nobody can come and disturb me again. Much as the customary title deed guarantees my ownership, I can now protect my land even before the court of law,” she rejoices.

The Ukijani Project’s drive is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the world leaders adapted in 2015.

The SDGs embody a roadmap for sustainable progress that leaves no one behind. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals.

An inclusive economy, whose growth is equitably shared among women and men, is billed to meet 17 Sustainable Development Goals world leaders adapted in 2015. PHOTO | FOUNDATION SCOTLAND

Tanzania will register viable economic gains only if its economy becomes inclusive where growth is equitably shared among women and men.

Women’s inclusion involves reducing gender gaps in the economy. Lack of assets and access to financial services are among several barriers inhibiting women from enjoying benefits of economic growth. Many women lack income of their own, limiting their ownership of capital assets.

Expected output of the project, Pilyson says, is to have a responsible community in land governance, providing women with equal access to private land, village land, forest land, non-timber forest products and water. A community that ensures women participate in managing and benefitting from these natural resources.

“The project will enable women to access inputs and extension, business development, financial and environmental services.

“It will also enable them to engage in economic activities in sustainable landscape-based value chains, resulting into generating additional family incomes,” he says.

Helvetas Tanzania is part of a network of independent development organisations. With its head office in Switzerland, Helvetas’ presence is felt in 29 countries globallyΩ

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