Like in most other African countries, Tanzania has a massive digital gender gap. As a result, it is unlikely to hear stories about successful Tanzanian women, either in leadership or the media. So how can Tanzania bridge this digital divide and strengthen inclusion? Carol Ndosi, Managing Director of Launchpad Tanzania, narrates the challenges and solutions to EAST site’s Chrispin Mwakideu.
Compared to men, how would you describe women’s participation in the digital space in Tanzania?
Carol Ndosi: We know that we have about 28 million internet users in Tanzania. That’s according to the data that Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has released. But, unfortunately, we don’t have the disaggregated data that would tell us how many are women and how many are men. However, just from the numbers and the engagement that we have been observing since we started focusing on this area, the number of women is quite low, especially when you look at the trending topics that have to do with perhaps politics or the development agenda.
A month ago, we did a survey on Twitter that had asked the same question: Do people think that women have lower participation than men on digital platforms? 70% out of 141 voters said yes. You can see this across other social media platforms as well.
When it comes to specific topics and certain content, women don’t feel safe. They don’t feel encouraged to engage in those kinds of agendas.
We have seen that most of them have been focused on promoting their businesses or promoting their work, but not necessarily engaging with the public in terms of vocalizing their ideas or participating in public interest campaigns.
What are some of the reasons preventing women from taking up leadership roles in media or any other sector?
Carol Ndosi: In Tanzania, I would say this draws down to the position of a woman and the socio-cultural norms that have positioned the woman where she is. Today in our society, because some of these women manage to get an entry point into this very male-dominated area, unfortunately, the internal or external structures would not necessarily favour her.
You find scenarios where women would take leadership roles in media or any other sector, and society would scrutinize them when it comes to their family life. Therefore, the balance between the two [family vis a vis career] has made it difficult for some women to rise up and excel or progress in certain fields.
At the same time, we have seen that women are taking the lead. We, the Launchpad, have a database of about 3,500 women whom we call Sheroes. They are taking the lead in different sectors. But, still, we feel that, unfortunately, women’s stories are not being told enough, so even those who have taken up the leadership roles, it is not easy to know about them because we do not celebrate them enough. We don’t have enough stories about them. We don’t tell their stories sufficiently for society to know about their work and even inspire the girl child to see that it is possible to attain the highest goals.
What must be done to reverse the trend?
Carol Ndosi: A lot could be done, but most lies in education and mindset change. This has to start from the grassroots level to the family level in communities. It’s all about changing the narrative, changing the stereotypes, and acknowledging and encouraging women to take leadership roles. Then, they could be integrated into digitalization or the digital economy, or any other opportunity. So, first, we need to start with the mindset change from the family level in the way the girl child and boy child are given opportunities at home and what they get exposed to. But we must also look at the outside system. As much as you might concentrate on the family level, if you don’t take care of the external structures, then whatever it is that you might be doing at home, once the child steps out into the society, work done is equal to zero. So we really need to move in parallel in terms of education and awareness and use new media and traditional media to show that this is the vision we should be pushing for.
Tanzania now has a female head of state, President Samia Siluhu Hassan. How has that changed the way men and women view leadership in your country?
Carol Ndosi: I don’t know how to respond to this question because, as a feminist, I am still disturbed by the misogynistic comments I come across on social media, mainly directed to our president and just because she is a woman. So have things changed? Slightly, yes. Can they change even more? Absolutely! We are optimistic. We see that President Samia Suluhu Hassan has tried to ensure that we have gender equality, especially in leadership roles, through her appointments. That has somehow changed the narrative on how we view men and women leadership in our country. She’s deliberately appointed women to take some of what I would say are male-centric roles in government. For example, she selected a woman as minister of defence, the first of its kind in Tanzania. But I think most importantly is going back to mindset and the narrative that we have that has subjected us for the longest time to this stereotype that has undermined a woman’s ability in a leadership role just because of her gender.
Does the future look bright or gloomy for Tanzanian women as far as taking leadership roles is concerned?
Carol Ndosi: The future looks bright for women. After President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office, we have seen several women who were not as vocal before because they saw a woman in a position of power. It somehow encouraged them to be vocal and speak about their aspirations. We have also seen some interesting aspirants come up and proclaim that they want to get into leadership positions. So the future looks bright for women regarding female participation in leadership roles and the development agenda in general. So when you look at digitalization and how women embrace it, drawing through the encouragement that comes from the president’s speeches, I would say yes, the future is very bright.
Carol Ndosi is Managing Director of Launchpad, a non-profit organization that focuses on sustainable development by encouraging women’s digital inclusion and innovation. She is a co-project manager of [email protected], a DW Akademie project that seeks to promote women’s digital empowerment. Ndosi is also an entrepreneur and development activist.
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