Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment initiatives have long been implemented through Volunteer activities. Peace Corps Tanzania recently affirmed its commitment to promote female empowerment as a Cross-Sector Programming Priority for the entire post.
In Tanzanian culture women are not afforded the same rights, roles or responsibilities as men. The most at-risk population is primary and secondary female students. From puberty onwards, young girls are given responsibilities in their homes to care for children and run the household while their male peers retain their status as children. Families decide whether to keep their daughters in school. In the school system females are viewed as inferior to their male peers. They are typically afraid to speak out in class and are often targets for increased corporal punishment. This is also the time when young women begin making sexual decisions. Their vulnerability makes them easy targets for sexual relationships with older men in exchange for school fees or other financial assistance. These kinds of intergenerational relationships are a prominent factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs. Older women are often not in control of their finances, though they are likely to spend 90% of their income on things that directly benefit their families. In positions of power, Tanzanian women are often unheard and underrepresented.
The role of USAWA (Unified Sexes Achieving a Wealth of Awareness) is to empower volunteers to bring gender-based projects to their site. We are here to support existing gender programs and to encourage innovation amongst volunteers to tackle the pervasive disempowerment of Tanzanian women and girls. We are here to foster volunteer and community-based male allies to promote female empowerment. We hope that by encouraging volunteers to put a gender lens over all projects, Peace Corps Tanzania can help to foster empowerment that allows Tanzanian women and girls to have control of their bodies and ownership over their own lives.